Yes, the Bulls are bleeding and the Lions are the matadors of South African rugby at the moment. But there will always be a lot of spice in any Lions v Bulls derby.
Rugby writers Jacques van der Westhuyzen and Vata Ngobeni take a light-hearted look at Saturday’s clash.
‘Rejects’ keen to make a statement
It wasn’t that long ago that the Bulls were bossing everyone who stood before them, including the Lions.
So powerful were the men from Pretoria, so deep was their pool of talent, that they could pick and choose whoever they wanted to play each weekend. And, they’d generally whip any team they came up against.
How times have changed. And how the big bosses at Loftus Versfeld must be wishing they didn’t let so many of their talented youngsters cross the Jukskei river to Joburg and join the Lions. Because they could do with a few of these Lions superstars right now.
Let’s start at fullback Andries Coetzee, who went to Middelburg Technical – a feeder school for the Bulls region. He was overlooked by the Bulls but was given a home at the Lions. There’s Courtnall Skosan, who wasn’t considered good enough to play for the Bulls in 2011 and 2012, yet he’s been a star for the Lions, and is South Africa’s joint leading try-scorer in Super Rugby.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg – this country’s outstanding No 12 before injured felled him – went to school at Waterkloof in Pretoria and was on the Bulls’ books, but the coaches didn’t rate him and let him join the Lions in 2015. How they must be ruing that.
Faf de Klerk is also a Waterkloof old boy and played his junior rugby at the Bulls, but they didn’t rate him, too, but he became a star at the Lions.
Johan Ackermann’s son, Ruan, pictured, also went to school in Pretoria – at Garsfontein – and knew his future was with the Lions and not the Bulls, while lock Franco Mostert was deemed not good enough for the men from Pretoria. He joined the Lions in 2013 after being a Tukkies Varsity Cup star.
There’s lock partner Andries Ferreira, prop Jacques van Rooyen and hooker Robbie Coetzee, too – all men who at one stage played their rugby in Pretoria, but weren’t considered good enough for the Bulls. How the men from Pretoria could do with some “home-grown” talent right now.
The Lions are now bossing the Highveld and these “former Bulls” will be relishing feeding on their visitors on Saturday. They won’t admit to it, but they’ll be chuckling deep inside and will be keen to make a big statement on Saturday.
In style Bulls flex their locks
Gone is the hair and the power too.
At the beginning of the season the Bulls forwards were made to shave off their hair, little did they know that they were taking away their most powerful weapon.
And just like Samson in the Bible, the Bulls lost their strength and now find themselves powerless to stop teams from trampling all over them.
10 matches later and with only three wins to their name, the Bulls are now in a fight for survival as they look to arrest their two-match losing streak ahead of their encounter against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The men in blue will look to the powers of some of their men who still have their locks intact after escaping the pre-season ritual that has had catastrophic effects on their campaign.
Flank Jannes Kirsten was fortunate enough not to have his hair cut because of academic reasons and has been one of the few standout players, especially in last week’s loss at the hands of the Highlanders, and the Bulls will look to him to take the fight to the Lions.
While Kirsten’s red haired pony tail tied locks have caused an uproar amongst some of the former players and fans alike, it has been his hard running and physical presence on the field that will be needed if the Bulls are to overcome the Lions on Saturday.
Talking about pony tailed locks, Bulls flyhalf Tony Jantjies will take some strength from his peculiar hairstyle when he squares up against his brother and Lions flyhalf Elton whose hairstyles this season have drawn as much attention as his scintillating form.
It will be the first time the Jantjies brothers play against each other at Super Rugby level and while Elton has hardly put a foot wrong this season, Tony will be looking at producing an even better performance than his brother with a better looking hairstyle as well.
Saturday’s trans Jukskei River derby has all the potential to be a hair raising affair but the strength of the winning team will come down to the might of the Jantjies brothers and which of the two sides flex their muscles on the field.