PREVIEW: Super Rugby, Round Five - Part One
CATTLE DRIVE: The Bulls begin the New Zealand leg of their Australasian tour when they face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
The Bulls started their tour with a disappointing 14-20 loss to the Reds in Brisbane. It would have been a match the Pretoria side were targeting for a win ahead of difficult fixtures in New Zealand.
Friday, March 16:
Chiefs v Bulls
(Waikato Stadium, Hamilton - Kick-off: 19.35; 06.35 GMT; 08.35 SA time)
After staring their campaign with a surprise 21-19 win over the Hurricanes, the Bulls have slumped to two consecutive defeats. However, John Mitchell's side has shown some promising signs.
The team from Pretoria heads to Hamilton with their regular captain Burger Odendaal fit and ready for the clash after missing his team's last two matches.
There are a few other changes to the Bulls team that lost to the Reds, most notably in the back row where Thembelani Bholi is back at flank, with Hanro Liebenberg moving to No.8 where he takes over from injured Nicholas de Jager.
The match in Hamilton should also stir up the memories for Bulls head coach John Mitchell who is a former Waikato player.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for us playing the Chiefs in Hamilton," said Mitchell.
"They have been one of the leading teams in the Super Rugby competition over the last couple of years and this is a massive step-up from where we were a year ago.
"We have definite plans on how to approach this match and how to try to beat the Chiefs. We will have to do a couple of things well to achieve that, including playing as a unit," Mitchell said.
Mitchell was excited about the possible debut for Manie Libbok, who starts on the bench.
"Manie is such an exciting talent and I believe he will make an impact in this tournament."
Meanwhile, Odendaal was confident about the squad's mental and physical approach.
"We are ready to go and show our abilities. For us to win here, our courage and determination will be tested, but knowing this squad and the way we are developing as a group, I have enough confidence to know that we will be very competitive on Friday."
The Chiefs will be riding a wave of confidence after their 27-21 win over the Blues before enjoying their bye in Round Four.
The win was made all the more special as the Chiefs were missing a number of players through injury.
It will be no different for Colin Cooper's side this week as they still have 14 players unavailable for selection.
The big change to Cooper's side sees Damian McKenzie return to his normal position of fullback, while talented youngster Tiaan Falcon takes over the No.10 jersey.
"We are really looking forward to playing in front of our passionate home fans for the first time in the 2018 Super Rugby season," said Cooper.
"The players have had a bye last week and are excited to go again and build on our last result against the Blues.
"I'm proud of how our players all played for each other last time out, and we will look to again improve against tough South African opposition.
"The team can’t wait to have the home fans behind them."
2017: Chiefs won 28-12, Hamilton
2015: Chiefs won 34-20, Hamilton
2014: 34-all draw, Pretoria
2012: Chiefs won 28-22, Hamilton
2011: Bulls won 43-27, Pretoria
Prediction: The Chiefs are undefeated in their last four games against the Bulls (won three, Drew one), turning around a four-game losing streak against them prior to that run. The Chiefs have won their last eight games at home against teams visiting from outside New Zealand, their longest ever winning streak in such fixtures. The Bulls have won only one of their last 12 games in New Zealand, with their last victory coming against the Blues in Round Four, 2013. The Chiefs haven't lost a scrum on their own feed at home since Round Three last season, and have finished three of six games since without losing a line-out either. Roelof Smit has won eight turnovers so far this campaign, more than any other player, all of those have been jackals. The Bulls have the potential to cause an upset. However, the Chiefs, despite their injuries, are a strong side and they are at home. The Chiefs will win by 12 points.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Fa'auli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Tiaan Falcon, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Lachlan Boshier, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Michael Allardice, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie/Bailyn Sullivan, 23 Declan O'Donnell.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Jason Jenkins/Tim Agaba, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Johnny Kotze.
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (Japan)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Richard Kelly (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)