Bulls in need of some Kiwi contact
PRE-SEASON BUILD-UP: Not having played against any New Zealand teams last year, the Bulls are in desperate need of game time against Kiwi franchise.
That is the main purpose of their midweek outing against the Chiefs in Brisbane on Thursday.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais, speaking to rugby365 from the team's training base in Australia, pointed out that only seven of the current Super Rugby squad have played against New Zealand teams before.
"We needed game time against a New Zealand team before the season started," Marais said.
"Dave Rennie's [Chiefs] team wanted to play against us," he added.
The Bulls coach said Thursday's match will give his players exposure to the "pace and intensity" they can expect from New Zealand teams.
"When we travel to New Zealand [at the end of March] we will have a good idea what the pace of the game will be like," he said of a tour that will see the Bulls face the Blues (at North Harbour on March 25) and Chiefs (in Hamilton on April 1).
Although Thursday's outing will be in a hot and Humid Brisbane - very different conditions than can expect in about six weeks' time in New Zealand, Marais is adamant the conditions are not of a concern.
"It is more important to get a taste of what it is like playing against New Zealand teams," he told rugby365, adding: "We also need to see where we are in terms of our preparations for the season."
After Thursday's encounter the Bulls - minus their contracted Springboks - will take part in the inaugural Brisbane 10s.
Again, game time is the most important factor.
"We need game time and contact against quality opposition.
"It will be contact sessions for the guys who did not play [against the Lions] in Zimbabwe.
"That is what we will be using these two games for, against the Chiefs and the 10s."
Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Solomon Alaimalo, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Latu Vaeno, 10 Stephen Donald (captain), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Matiaha Martin, 4 Mitchell Brown, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Brayden Mitchell, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements - form: Hika Elliot, Sosefo Kautai, Atu Moli, Fin Hoeata, Liam Messam, Finlay Christie, James Lowe, Toni Pulu, Joe Ravouvou , Luteru Laulala, Kane Hames.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handré Pollard (captain), 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Nic de Jager, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements - from: Edgar Marutlulle, Lizo Gqoboka, Jason Jenkins, Ruan Steenkamp, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Warrick Gelant, John-Roy Jenkinson, Jacobie Adriaanse, Renaldo Bothma, Francois Brummer, JT Jackson.
Date: Thursday, February 9
Venue: Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 18.30 (08.30 GMT; 21.30 NZ time)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
By Jan de Koning