While history will have little to do with what unfolds at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, the Chiefs would be well advised to be mindful of not playing their natural game against the Bulls if they want to avoid another defeat in Pretoria.
The Chiefs have not won a Super Rugby game against the Bulls at Loftus since 2001.
Their ability to run with ball in hand has been effective in the past two years with the Chiefs winning back-to-back Super Rugby titles but their strength has often been their weakness against the Bulls and yesterday the Pretoria side made no secret of the fact that they relish another opportunity at running with ball in hand.
While the Bulls have often been stereotyped as kings of kick and chase rugby, they have expressed their love for the running game too and are confident of scoring tries on the back of three consecutive wins at home.
The Bulls clash could prove to be yet another tricky assignment for the Chiefs after their loss against the Western Force last week. And yesterday the Bulls side showed only one change – veteran winger Akona Ndungane, back after compassionate leave following the death of his father, replacing Sampie Mastriet.
The momentum from their wins, the aura surrounding Loftus, the return of the experienced Ndungane and the fact the Chiefs play a game the Bulls have mastered, will be perfect ingredients for another high octane, high-scoring game likely to end in the way it has for the past 13 years.
While Bulls captain Victor Matfield wouldn’t acknowledge his team’s past successes against the Chiefs at Loftus, he didn’t deny that his side were relishing the type of rugby the Chiefs are likely to dish up. “The past is the past,” Matfield said yesterday. “They have been good so far and lost only one game. It is bad for us because they will be a bit sharper this week. They have been good in the other three games they played. But we’ve done our planning and hopefully we can execute it successfully,” added Matfield.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is hopeful his team will deliver the kind of result they enjoyed in defeating the Lions, Blues and Sharks and believes his side often play their best rugby against New Zealand teams.
Bulls: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (capt), Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Morné Mellett, Marcel van der Merwe, Grant Hattingh, Jono Ross, Piet van Zyl, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers. - The Star