Johannesburg – The Bulls are under severe pressure of not falling victim to the Lions' good run of form when the two side's face each other in a Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The hosts are in danger of losing their third match on the trot, while the Lions will be looking to make history for the second consecutive week.
The Lions have surprised all and sundry starting their return to the premier provincial competition in the southern hemisphere with victories over the Cheetahs and the Stormers respectively.
They made history against the Stormers reversing a nine-match losing streak against the Capetonians and they aim to do the same against the Bulls.
The Johannesburg franchise have not won a match against the Bulls in nine outings since 2006.
The Bulls have been flatfooted since the start of the competition three weeks ago with coach Frans Ludeke making some changes to key positions with the hope of turning their fortunes around.
The halfback combination of flyhalf Louis Fouche and scrumhalf Francois Hougaard has not been as successful as required with the duo struggling with their tactical kicking in particular.
Fouche has subsequently been dropped from the match-day 23 with Jacques-Louis Potgieter being handed the number-10 jersey.
The Bulls have also called on veteran lock Victor Matfield to supply some much-needed experience after he was named in the starting line-up with Grant Hattingh moving to eighthman.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said his charges would have to be switched on against a resurgent Lions side.
“They are playing well and everybody is taking notice of them, there is a lot of passion and they play with a lot of intent,” Ludeke said.
“There are a lot of things going for them and we will have to match that.”
While the Lions have in the past been characterised for their expansive brand of rugby, Ludeke said they have added some variation to their armoury.
“We are prepared for whatever is coming, so I am confident the players will absorb the pressure and forced turnovers.”
The Lions kept their team relatively unchanged for the encounter with coach Johan Ackermann making only two injury-enforced changes.
Flanker Warwick Tecklenburg will replace the injured Derick Minnie, while JW Jonker has been called into the side for Alwyn Hollenbach at centre.
Lions captain Warren Whiteley cautioned his team-mates against complacency after their dream start to the tournament.
“We know the threat they pose and the number of Springboks they have and we know they didn't capitalise on a lot of opportunities in those two games,” Whiteley said.
“If they managed to capitalise on their opportunities we could have seen other results.”
The Lions will again heavily rely on the metronomic place-kicking of flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff.
Boshoff was instrumental in both his side's victories by contributing all of his side's points against the Cheetahs, while his three drop goals and accurate kicking demoralised the Stormers.
Ludeke admitted Boshoff was a threat but it was up to his side to ensure the Lions did not get front-foot ball, while they also needed to ensure they scored first to build a cushion. – Sapa