Super Rugby Weekend Preview : Can Bulls Hold Crusaders?

The Vodacom Bulls return to Super Rugby action this week – the latest team standing in the way of a rampant Crusaders outfit. 9 wins from 9 matches played so far this season, the seven-time champions will be looking to make it a perfect 10 out of 10 on Saturday at Loftus Versveld, a venue where they have not tasted victory since 2008. The Bulls on the other hand have won less than half of their 8 fixtures thus far although 2 wins in their last 2 has given the men from Pretoria a bit of belief and captain Adriaan Strauss had the following to say on facing the Crusaders “This is an opportunity for us to play the way we want to, under pressure by a great side and we don’t get those opportunities often so it is good.”The Stormers overseas tour could not have kicked off in a worse possible fashion. Following their final home game before jetting off – a 29-16 defeat to the Lions, they have conceded a whopping 57 points in both of their fixtures played on New Zealand soil, to the Crusaders and most recently, the Highlanders.  Their task this weekend does not get any easier. They will be missing key players in Peter-Steph Du Toit and Eben Etzebeth due to injury and In the Hurricanes, the Cape side will face the competitions best attacking team which happens to be the best defensively, too. They have scored over 20 points more and conceded over 20 points less than anyone else in Super Rugby this season and boast the competitions leading try scorer, winger Vince Aso who already has 10 touchdowns to his name so far.Back-to-back losses has extended the Cheetah’s winless run to six games. Their last victory came on the 11th of March against the Sunwolves and despite upbeat performances in recent weeks, threw away half-time leads against the Chiefs and Bulls and even a gutsy performance against the Crusaders was not enough to turn the tide of defeat. The Cheetahs will have their top points scorer, Fred Zeilinga back in the starting lineup when they welcome the Highlanders to Bloemfontein on Friday evening. The team from Dunedin come into this fixture following an impressive away victory over the Brumbies who currently top the Australian group.The top team in the combined African Conference, The Lions, take on the bottom team in the combined Australasian Conference, The Rebels. The men from Johannesburg kicked off their tour with an impressive bonus point victory over the Western Force and are well on their way to making a swift return to the play-offs, where they were defeated in the final in 2016 by The Hurricanes. Johan Ackerman has a full side to choose from ahead of this weekend’s clash and said of their victory last time out: “We made history by beating the Force. We hadn’t won in Perth before, so we’re happy. And say what you want, it remains a tour game; it remains a match on the road.” Despite crucial points earned in victories over the Brumbies and in the draw with the Sharks a fortnight ago, the Rebels have conceded 40+ points in 4 of their subsequent 6 fixtures.Pat Lambie returns for The Sharks against the Western Force at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday. Their Springbok Captain has not featured for the best part of 6 weeks but they welcome him back for a crucial clash in their hopes to secure play-off qualification. They beat the Jaguares for the second time in 3 weeks last time out to leap-frog their Argentinian opponents into second place on the Africa Log 2. The Western Force are in a battle of their own with one Australian franchise set to be cut from the competition from next season. Their only victories in this campaign however have come against The Reds and The Kings, just ahead of them on the combined log and a win against a resurgent Sharks side, may just be a step too far.

Published: 05/04/2017