The Jaguares and the Bulls will be embroiled in an almighty tussle at the Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires tonight with the winners certain to gain an advantage in the race for the play-offs among the teams congested in the South African conference.
While the Jaguares have been impressive in making up the most ground with their four wins on their tour Down Under which catapulted them into second place in the conference, the Bulls have quietly been making strides and are now on level points with the Jaguares with the only permutation separating them being points difference.
Both teams will be fully aware of the gravity of tonight’s outcome as the Sharks and Stormers are well in the race as the fight for the teams below the conference leaders intensifies in the final rounds of the round robin.
Even though the Jaguares and Bulls will know how they stand on the log by the time they kick-off, the Stormers play the Sunwolves and Sharks against the Chiefs earlier in the day, it will take nothing away from the fact that every game counts especially against teams in your conference.
What will be crucial for the Bulls in trying to secure their maiden win in Argentina will be using the psyche of the Jaguares poor home record this year against them while also making sure that they are as defensively sound as they have been so far this season.
As erratic as the Jaguares have been at home, so have the Bulls in trying to maintain some consistency and it will be important that they build on last weekend’s win against the Sharks.
It was the win against the Sharks that proved that the men in blue can do more than just attack and that their defence is equally a strength of theirs.
Against an attacking minded side like the Jaguares, the Bulls will do well to shut them down and evoke the ill-discipline the Jaguares are known for before landing the fatal blow with their own lethal attack.
And the Bulls will feel confident with ball in hand as well with a huge focus on an expansive attack with Manie Libbok at flyhalf and the in-form Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel in the midfield, while the twinkle-toed Warrick Gelant will be the visitor’s magic wand.
“Defensively we will have to be a bit smarter this week because of the way they play. They are very flat and like sending multiple runners down one channel.
“They certainly like testing your vacuum as well and they use their centres and wingers well.
“But in terms of the way that we play we are at the time of the year where it is making sure we re-establish the muscle memory on what we do, top up our high speed, keep everyone healthy and keeping things simple to maintain the enthusiasm,” said Bulls coach John Mitchell.
Meanwhile, the Blue Bulls Company (BBC) announced contract extensions of captain Burger Odendaal (until 2020), locks RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins (until 2019), utility forward Hendre Stassen (until 2021), Ruan Steenkamp (2019), Tinus de Beer (2019), Abongile Nonkontwana (2019), Jaco Visagie (2020), centre JT Jackson (2019) and Duncan Matthews (2020).
Cheetahs loose forward Paul Schoeman has also penned a contract with the Bulls that will run until the end of October next year.
“It is an impressive list of players who opted to stay with us,” said BBC High-Performance Manager Xander Janse van Rensburg.
“We are humbled by their decision, because it means that we are doing something right.
“All these individuals have ambitions to play at the highest level and rightly so, as they are outstanding players. It means a lot to our structures and confidence to know that they feel those ambitions can be realised while playing their rugby in Pretoria.”
Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de le Fuente, 11 Sebastian Cancelliere, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio,
7 Mar’cos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (capt), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Reserves: Julian Montoya, Javier Diaz, Santiago Medrano, Matias Alemanno, Leonardo Senatore, Martin Landajo, Bautista Ezcurra, Juan Cruz Mallia
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Handre Pollard (captain), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marco van Staden, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Adriaan Strauus, 1 Trevor Nyakane
Reserves: Jaco Visagie, Mox Mxoli, Frans van Wyk, Hendre Stassen, Nic de Jager, Andre Warner, JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw