Bulls to show their ‘BMT’

    2013-05-31 09:09
    Cape Town - Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing, in his regular South African Super Rugby preview, predicts wins for the Bulls and Stormers in their respective derbies against the Cheetahs and Kings.


    CHEETAHS v BULLS, Bloemfontein

    When: Saturday, 19:10
    Referee: Jason Jaftha (SA)
    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
    SuperSport commentators:  Hugh Bladen and Robbie Kempson (Eng), Christo Olivier and Werner Swanepoel (Afrik), Lonwabo Mtimka and Mzwandile Stick (Xho)
    Weather outlook: Clear, mild, moderate wind

    Ah, good old South African derbies ... we love them in advance, and then many of us quickly realise what a curse they really are on match-day itself, given the terrible physical toll they inevitably take and the fact that the vast majority hardly produce the most exhilarating brand of rugby. This season’s Sharks-Stormers and Sharks-Bulls clashes in Durban (admittedly not helped by night-time humidity) were particularly tepid for entertainment value. It is just possible this one will break the trend, even given the massively high stakes involved. I fancy the Cheetahs, in their very keen quest to finally break their duck in the competition against these foes, to stick to their up-tempo template as a possible route to victory, whilst the Bulls may also rise to that spirit of adventure at times, given the likely firm and fast conditions. Adriaan Strauss’s side have a really good chance ... but I feel the Bulls’ established big-match temperament, coupled with the dictating edge at flyhalf Morne Steyn might well earn over Elgar Watts, will swing the outcome in favour of the visitors. But based on my tipster fortunes this year, what do I really know?  

    Key head-to-head: Pundits and fans alike seem notably divided about which of the Cheetahs’ ROBERT EBERSOHN or the Bulls’ youthful JAN SERFONTEIN they would like to see debut in the Springbok midfield against Italy next weekend (some actually favour both, weirdly keen as they are to overlook Bok captaincy incumbent Jean de Villiers ... the Stormers’ regression this year hasn’t been his fault, has it?). Anyway, the timing could barely be better – though Heyneke Meyer will probably already have his immediate Bok ducks in a row – for a direct clash at No 12 on Saturday between the very Ebersohn and Serfontein. I suggested earlier this week that Ebersohn deserves a Test start more at this stage, given his terrific consistency in Super Rugby this year, but I’ll also say this much: should the brilliant potential of Serfontein get a fast-track nod I won’t exactly be sobbing into my barley and hops.

    Recent history between teams:  First-round meeting, April 13: Bulls 26 Cheetahs 20. Last season: Cheetahs 19 Bulls 51; Bulls 40 Cheetahs 24

    Rob Houwing’s prediction:
    Bulls by five points.

    SA GAME 2

    STORMERS v KINGS, Cape Town

    When: Saturday, 17:05
    Referee: Craig Joubert (SA)
    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
    SuperSport commentators: Gavin Cowley and Bob Skinstad (Eng), Hennie Koortzen and Kobus Wiese (Afrik), Kaunda Ntunja and Makhaya Jack (Xho)
    Weather outlook: Cold, continuous rain, moderate NW wind

    In a meeting that harks back to some extent to the days of tough Currie Cup clashes between WP and EP in the 1980s, the Kings pay their first visit to Cape Town. Quite some “welcome” awaits them, too ... weather forecasts have routinely pointed in the lead-up to a 100 percent prospect of rain, so Newlands may also see its first mud-bath of the season. I imagine the Kings won’t mind that: they are underdogs and any chance of a levelling scenario via the elements will be welcomed. It is really a must-win occasion for them, as even a 1-1 outcome between these sides in the SA conference (the return is on July 6 in Port Elizabeth) probably won’t be enough to stave off bottom spot for the newcomers as a whole 10 points separate them at present. It is a shame a fair bit of the sting has been taken out with news that stormy petrel - not to mention Stormers old boy - Luke Watson has pulled out of the Kings line-up with reported flu. Coming off a gritty win over the Reds, the hosts should get in fairly comfortably, but I was a little surprised Allister Coetzee has gone more for mobility than bulk in the composition of his loose trio, given the likely heavy pitch when big bruisers often come into their own. Then again, maybe he fancies placing real pressure on the now Watson-less Kings on the slippery deck?

    Key head-to-head:
    It sounds as though it will be one of those days where close-quarters activity rules the roost and accuracy in execution will be essential. In that respect, the hookers getting their lineout throwing spot-on will be a key respective aim, and here the Stormers’ fit-again TIAAN LIEBENBERG cut the mustard in his broadly rousing comeback against the Reds last time out. Up against him will be co-Springbok BANDISE MAKU, perhaps just a tad less familiar with the vagaries of a howling north-westerly in the Mother City. Both No 2s will also be expected to be forceful at scrum-time, if this game lumbers from one set-piece to another and sound field position is a cherished aim.

    Recent history between teams: Not applicable

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Stormers by 11 points

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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