Bulls to snap overseas jinx

    2015-05-14 13:27

    Rob Houwing - Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing, in Round 14 of his regular South African-focused Super Rugby previews this year, backs the Bulls to break a seven-match losing streak abroad when they tackle to iffy Blues at Eden Park on Friday.

    It was against these very foes that the side from Pretoria registered their last triumph away from SA soil, in game one of their 2013 Australasian venture.

    He also boldly suggests the Lions will produce one of their famous late-game surges to pip the Brumbies in Johannesburg, but sees further heartbreak afflicting both the Sharks and Cheetahs.

    *Rob is currently lying 88th out of 1 691 tipsters in the Sport24 Super Rugby predictions pool on SuperBru, and 7 420th out of around 192 000 contestants globally with a win success record of 66%.


    BLUES v BULLS, Auckland

    When: Friday, 09:35 (SA time)

    Referee: Mike Fraser (NZ)

    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

    SuperSport commentators: NZ panel

    Weather outlook: Cloudy, chilly, fresh wind

    Background: Yes, it is only game one of the overseas tour. But even at the risk of sounding like a stuck record on this, I firmly believe this match could make or break the four-match venture for the Bulls. It stands out as the most “winnable” of the quartet on present form considerations, so playing second fiddle would not be a healthy development at all for Frans Ludeke’s charges. But if they exploit the crackpot nature of the Blues’ defence, they could not only win this one, but even do so with a four-try cherry on top if they have a positive mindset. Granted, the Blues offer a fair threat on attack themselves, so the Bulls mustn’t throw all composure and structure to the wind, but the South Africans may just surprise the Eden Park faithful with their own constructive use of the width of the park. Expect Victor Matfield to mastermind lineout supremacy, though the Blues will try to do likewise at scrum-time as a negating device. Still, let’s confidently back a reasonably clear-cut Bulls victory, shall we?

    Key head-to-head: There’s a “history” between the rival flyhalves on this occasion, the Bulls’ fast-maturing Springbok HANDRE POLLARD and the home team’s No 10 IHAIA WEST: they were in the respective line-ups when the Baby Boks beat New Zealand 22-16 in the final of the IRB Junior World Championship at Newlands in 2012. West, at 23, has a two-year advantage in age terms over Pollard, who would go to have two further seasons for the Baby Boks, although the South African has comfortably eclipsed him to Test honours; West only boasts selection thus far for the Maori All Blacks. I tip Pollard to press home that advantage in street wisdom on Friday ...

    Last result between sides: March 8, 2014: Bulls 38 Blues 22 (Pretoria)

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Bulls by three points

    SA GAME 2

    LIONS v BRUMBIES, Johannesburg

    When: Saturday, 17:05

    Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA)

    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

    SuperSport commentators: Matthew Pearce & Joel Stransky (Eng), John van Rensburg & Derick Hougaard (Afrik), Lonwabo Mtimka & Makhaya Jack (Xho)

    Weather outlook: Fine, warm, near-windless

    Background: The Lions played virtually out of their skins in the second half last Saturday to dramatically turn around their clash with the Highlanders. It kept them commendably still in the running for the finals series, although they stay a “fringe” candidate and any further defeat in the run-in may be quite costly. So can their collective nerve hold against the Brumbies? I fancy it might, and they will steal yet another nail-biter. But it may depend on Warren Whiteley’s lads being in the picture in scoreboard terms entering the final quarter, when their amazing stamina so often kicks in for them. The Brumbies threw everything – including some leather handbags – at the Stormers in the ill-tempered Newlands clash last time out, only to play second fiddle after Christian Lealiifano’s unusual, simple conversion gaffe.  They may just find on the Highveld that the tank runs dry late on, though this really seems a 50-50 sort of fixture.

    Key head-to-head: If scrumhalf FAF DE KLERK can repeat the sort of dynamic, high-tempo effort he put into the Lions’ memorable “second 40” last weekend off the bench, then they’ll be a fair way down the road to a win that might (if other results have gone their way) even see them seize an unlikely lead on the SA conference table. He starts here, with the similarly in-form Elton Jantjies alongside him at No 10, and many neutral South Africans will wish him only well against feisty direct opponent NIC WHITE, who walked a tightrope in terms of acceptable conduct at Newlands last weekend. Make no mistake, White has many fine rugby qualities, so this is an appealing match-up.

    Last result between sides: April 27, 2012: Lions 20 Brumbies 34 (Johannesburg)

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Lions by one point

    SA GAME 3


    When: Saturday, 11:40 (SA time)

    Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Aus)

    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

    SuperSport commentators: Australian panel

    Weather outlook: Partly cloudy, cool, moderate wind

    Background: With a bit of luck (not something they’ve enjoyed bag-loads of this year) the Sharks might have beaten the log-leading Hurricanes in Wellington. But then they even went and surrendered a deserved losing “BP” at the death, so it all seemed a bit ... er, pointless. Not to mention demoralising. It is also a raw fact that the men from Durban have lost five on the trot since a 15-9 home win against the Force in late March. Desperation, then, will be their main driver in Sydney, and that doesn’t necessarily bring with it tangible rewards. There were some signs of better continuity and even flair at the Cake Tin, so that is something to cling to in hope. Then again, the defending champion ‘Tahs enter this one off a comeuppance in Perth, so will be primed themselves to atone for the hiccup and re-enter the increasingly important top six terrain on the ladder. Pure common sense? Waratahs win, alas.

    Key head-to-head: It’s one gnarly international against another in the front row when the Waratahs’ low-centre-of-gravity BENN ROBINSON, on their loosehead side, tackles veteran Springbok JANNIE DU PLESSIS in the Sharks’ No 3 jersey. The 32-year-old could do with an assertive performance for the struggling underdogs, as various younger tightheads around South Africa – like Frans Malherbe, Vincent Koch and Julian Redelinghuys -- are presently eclipsing him either for scrummaging potency or contribution outside the set-piece ... or in some instances both. But he is still the grand master of the Bok front row and may just remind us of that.

    Last result between sides: March 29, 2014: Sharks 32 Waratahs 10 (Durban)

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Waratahs by 10 points

    SA GAME 4

    CHEETAHS v HIGHLANDERS, Bloemfontein

    When: Saturday, 19:10

    Referee: Stuart Berry (SA)

    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD

    SuperSport commentators: Owen Nkumane & AJ Venter (Eng), Christo Olivier & Werner Swanepoel (Afrik), Alfred Mzizi & Lungelo Payi (Xho)

    Weather outlook: Partly cloudy, mild, near-windless

    Background: A pretty woeful outfit in foreign climes ahead of it, the Cheetahs registered a famous win (at least for them) in the chilly climes of Invercargill the last time these foes met in 2013. They even had the temerity to do it by 17 points. But circumstances have altered a fair bit since then, with the Free Staters among the 2015 also-rans and the Highlanders – second last that year – much more steely, and challenging for the playoffs. Not helping the Cheetahs, perhaps, is the fact that the Otago tourists will be hopping mad about frittering away a 20-3 lead against the Lions in Johannesburg. “Bounce-back” will be firmly on their minds and the home outfit may feel it to a fair extent. You can never write off a Cheetahs victory in their Bloemfontein heartland, but with further injury hassles (including having to dig deep into reserve stocks at key Nos 9 and 10) the portents aren’t wonderful, I’m afraid.  

    Key head-to-head: In the Cheetahs midfield, outside centre FRANCOIS VENTER is among the top 10 on the tackle stats for Super Rugby with his 113 successful efforts thus far. The former Bulls man, who has dovetailed quite nicely in midfield with Mikey van der Spuy recently, will need to be razor-sharp defensively once more, as he keeps an eagle eye on the Highlanders’ lethal Tongan-born MALAKAI FEKITOA. The chunky All Black scored a spectacular, long-range breakout try against the Lions where his pace was simply too hot to handle. He may fancy rather more opportunities this week ...

    Last result between sides: March 9, 2013: Highlanders 19 Cheetahs 36 (Invercargill)  

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Highlanders by 13 points

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    Read More On:  bulls super 15 frans ludeke rugby

    What To Read Next

    Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

    Comment on this story
    Comments have been closed for this article.
    Live Video Streaming
    Sport Talk


    No results are available


    Rank Team P W Pts

    Opinion Poll

    Which South African franchise stands the best chance of winning this year's Super Rugby title?

    The ultimate Super Rugby quiz!

    There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.