Can Brumbies bury Loftus bogey?

Mon, 22 Jul 2013 09:43
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Loftus Versfeld has once again become a near impenetrable fortress for the Bulls and the Brumbies are geared for a gargantuan effort.

Loftus Versfeld has once again become a near impenetrable fortress for the Bulls and the Brumbies know it will require a gargantuan effort when the two sides go head-to-head in a Super Rugby semifinal on Saturday.

The Bulls, who earned home ground advantage courtesy of the second place on the tournament standings, are on a 10-match victory run in Pretoria, dating back more than a year.

This is surpassed only by their 18-match winning streak in 2009 and 2010 - which resulted in back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

The Brumbies have also not beaten the Bulls at Loftus since 2006. And their only wins since 2006 were both fortuitous squeakers in Canberra - 23-20 in March this year, courtesy of a dubious last-minute penalty, and a one-point (31-30) win in 2009.

Making it an even more daunting task is the fact that the Bulls have never lost a play-off match at home - beating the Crusaders three times in the semifinals (even though one of those were in Soweto in 2010), as well as the Chiefs and Stormers in successive Final appearances (the 2010 win also in Soweto).

Brumbies coach Jake White, a man familiar with the pressure-cooker atmosphere his team will encounter in Pretoria, suggesting that his team's visit to Pretoria this week will be an experience his young team would likely never forget.

"It doesn't get bigger for this group of players than a semifinal at Loftus," the World Cup-winning for Springbok coach said before he and his team boarded a plane in Canberra to take on the 14,000-kilometre trip across the Indian Ocean.

"I've heard it's a sell-out crowd with 50,000," White added.

"It's going to be tough. Let's not kid ourselves.

"We're flying now to the other side of the world and playing in a country where rugby is No.1, No.2 and No.3 as their [favourite] code."

White, who has turned the Brumbies from no-hopers in 2011 (when they finished 13th in the 15-team competition) to Australian conference winners this year, said the Bulls will be a more formidable task than the Cheetahs - whom they beat 15-13 in the preliminary play-off (quarterfinal) at the weekend.

"They're a South African side and we know what they're like," White said of the Bulls.

"They'll play with their forwards and use [flyhalf] Morné Steyn to add the extras.

"But if we play to our best there's no reason we can't take a result."

He admitted the Brumbies were perhaps a touch fortunate against the Cheetahs.

"We got lucky with that [Riaan Smit] kick at the end there," White said of a last-minute conversion attempt that brushed the upright and could have sent the game into extra time.

"However, when I look back at that game from last week [against the Western Force], when we didn't play well, there's no doubt that our graph has started to go up.

"We spoke a lot about the fact that finals footy means playing for 80 minutes and we had to play 81 to get the result."

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FIXTURE GMT VENUE
Fri, 06 May 2016
Crusaders v Reds 07h35 Christchurch
Brumbies v Bulls 09h40 Canberra
Griffons v Eagles 15h00 Welkom
EP Kings v Blue Bulls 16h00 Port Elizabeth
Sat, 07 May 2016
Sunwolves v Force 05h15 Tokyo
Chiefs v Highlanders 07h35 Hamilton
Waratahs v Cheetahs 09h40 Sydney
Leopards v Boland 12h30 Potchefstroom
Griquas v Border 13h00 Kimberley
Sharks v Hurricanes 13h00 Durban
Pumas v Namibia 13h00 Mpumalanga
Golden Lions v Free State Cheetahs 13h00 Randburg
Wasps v London Irish 14h30 Ricoh Arena
Worcester Warriors v Saracens 14h30 Sixways
Bath v Leicester Tigers 14h30 Recreation Ground
Gloucester v Northampton Saints 14h30 Kingsholm
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs 14h30 Twickenham
Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks 14h30 Kingston Park
Zebre v Dragons 15h00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi
Munster v Scarlets 15h00 Thomond Park
Ospreys v Ulster 15h00 Liberty Stadium
Connacht v Glasgow Warriors 15h00 Sportsground
Edinburgh v Cardiff Blues 15h00 BT Murrayfield
Leinster v Treviso 15h00 RDS
Kings v Blues 15h05 Port Elizabeth
Sharks v Western Province 15h30 Durban
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Rebels 9 5 0 4 23
Brumbies 9 5 0 4 21
Waratahs 8 4 0 4 21
Reds 9 2 1 6 12
Force 9 1 0 8 6
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Chiefs 9 8 0 1 37
Crusaders 8 7 0 1 32
Hurricanes 9 6 0 3 31
Highlanders 9 6 0 3 28
Blues 8 4 1 3 20
Pool SA1
Team P W D L Pts
Stormers 9 6 0 3 29
Bulls 8 6 1 1 28
Cheetahs 9 2 0 7 12
Sunwolves 8 1 0 7 7
Pool SA2
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 9 6 0 3 27
Sharks 9 4 1 4 23
Jaguares 8 1 0 7 7
Kings 7 1 0 6 4