Cape Town - The
Waratahs will be determined to make it four successive triumphs in
Super Rugby when they play host to the Bulls in Sydney on Saturday.
It's been some turnaround from Daryl Gibson's charges as they are now
knocking on the Australian Group door, with Friday's Rebels versus
Brumbies match sure to be keenly watched. As it stands they're level on
points with the latter and two points above the Melbourne outfit.
Things are also looking bright in Pretoria as despite a recent
defeat, they are very much in the reckoning for a playoff spot, with
the Stormers their only rival in Africa 1. With the Capetonians playing
the Sunwolves this round, the Bulls must win to avoid losing ground.
It is important however to hold back on the praise for the Bulls and
indeed the Stormers and Cheetahs, with that trio not facing any New
Zealand franchises in the regular-season. How it reflects a level
playing field come July remains a mystery that will be talked to death.
The Bulls do though boast the best tackling success rate in the
competition (88 percent) and hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss has the best success
rate (95 percent) at the line-out, despite mixing his options. Proof
therefore that doing the basics well is paying off for this outfit.
That will be the pre-match message from head coach Nollis Marais as
bringing down the Waratahs forward runners, such as Wycliff Palu and
Will Skelton, at source will help limit the likes of Bernard Foley and
Israel Folau from causing damage wider out. If they can manage it then
there is no reason why this hard-working side cannot get back to winning
ways, not just this season, but against this week's hosts.
The last time the teams met: It was in 2014 when the
'Tahs ended a dire run of eight straight losses to the Bulls with a
19-12 win. Israel Folau crossed for the only try, coming in the first
minute, before Bernard Foley, Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Handré Pollard
Players to watch: He is learning all the time at outside centre and if Israel Folau
keeps improving then it is going to be difficult for Michael Cheika to
move him back to number 15 in June. Folau has said he is happy to play
wherever but with so few options at the back in gold, he might have to
return to his previous position. He will, however, return with a few
more strings to his bow after recent showings.
For the Bulls we have enjoyed watching fullback SP Marais
in recent games. His cultured left boot and classy style has definitely
added something to the Pretoria side's attacking options. Also monitor
fly-half Tian Schoeman, who is given an opportunity to make a statement.
Team news: The Waratahs have been boosted by being
able to name the same XV as last week. They will be eager to continue
their impressive form following their 21-6 defeat over the Cheetahs.
Bernard Foley (60) will become the Waratahs' highest-ever Super
Rugby-capped flyhalf, surpassing previous record holder Daniel
Halangahu. Tatafu Polota-Nau will notch the second highest amount of
games for NSW as he hits 137.
The Bulls have added Jason Jenkins and Jamba Ulengo to their XV.
Jenkins pulled out of the first game of the tour against the Force due
to an injury, but is fit again and will combine with RG Snyman at lock.
He replaces Marvin Orie, who moves to the bench. Ulengo, who returned
home from Perth before the Force game, has since returned and starts in
place of the injured Travis Ismaiel on the wing. Jannes Kirsten is also
back at flank in place of Arno Botha while Rudy Paige and Tian Schoeman
come in for half-back pair Piet van Zyl and Francois Brummer. In a
similar alteration, the final change sees Lizo Gqoboka start at
loosehead prop and Trevor Nyakane will this week come off the bench.
Form: The Waratahs are enjoying a three-match
winning streak at the moment as a loss to the Brumbies sparked wins over
the Force, Stormers and Cheetahs. That has given them hope of topping
the Australian Group. Because of the men from Canberra's poor form, the
'Tahs are level with them at the summit with a game in hand, which is
staggering to think after such a sluggish start that saw them lose four
out of six.
Last week's loss at the Brumbies was the Bulls' first defeat since
Round One. Since that negative at the Stormers they've won six and drew
one game before going down in Canberra. They will be eager to bounce
back this weekend before home matches against the Stormers and Lions.
2014: Waratahs won 19-12 in Sydney
2013: Bulls won 30-19 Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 27-24 in Sydney
2011: Bulls won 23-17 in Pretoria
2010: Bulls won 48-38 in Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 20-6 in Sydney
2008: Bulls won 16-13 in Pretoria
2007: Bulls won 32-19 in Sydney
15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece
Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard
Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Dean
Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu
Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Substitutes: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy
Tilse, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Ned Hanigan/Jack Dempsey, 21
Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro
SP Marais, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn
Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes
Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel
van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Marvin Orie,
20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Dries
Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 11:45 (SA time)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe, James Leckie
TMO: George Ayoub