Malcolm Marx will be a key player for Lions as they look to bulk up against the Bulls. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

At just after 5pm today the Bulls and Lions go head to head at Loftus Versfeld in the big derby of the weekend.

Both teams are brimming with confidence and are in good form in these early stages of the competition.

Vata Ngobeni (for the Bulls) and Jacques van der Westhuyzen (for the Lions) debate the outcome.

Why the Bulls will win

If it was on confidence alone that victory would be guaranteed then the Bulls would win this game hands down.

But it will take more than just confidence stemming from their 21-19 win over the Hurricanes last week to get the Bulls over the line again.

John Mitchell’s men showed glimpses of a team which can match any side with creativity, but more importantly they are tapping into the DNA that made them Super Rugby champions in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

The scrums, lineouts and defence are becoming a given and even more impressive is their willingness to keep the ball alive until the final whistle.

Yes, there were shades of early season rustiness and a team still getting to grips with their new way of thinking and playing but the good play signalled a team that is going to become a threat when they hit their straps.

It was not the backs who showed how expansive rugby is played but oddly enough almost all the members of the tight five  especially locks Lood de Jager and RG Snyman.

The Bulls also impressed with their mental fortitude when under the pump from a far more experienced Hurricanes side and they will again look to that unwavering character to help them overcome the Lions.

And what would a derby be without emotion?

The Bulls will want to revenge the embarrassing defeats of the past two years at home to the Lions while Mitchell will certainly want one over his former employers after their acrimonious divorce.

Why the Lions will win

Well, for starters, they’re the best team in South Africa and they’ve showed that in the first two rounds of the competition by sweeping aside the Sharks and Jaguares. 

They’ve simply continued the form they displayed in the last two years, which was good enough to take them to the final.

There may not be a Johan Ackermann anymore, but nothing much has changed in a team now under the guidance of Swys de Bruin. 

They’re still playing with tremendous forward power, with their scrum a work of art  how they’ve dominated that aspect in the first two rounds  and they’re still as deadly at the back, with their counter-attacking game as good as ever.

This Lions team play with width and pace, they make good decisions, and they have smart and switched-on players ... and they’re a settled combination.

They know what works for them and what doesn’t, and that kind of experience doesn’t come about in a few games, and when a new coach takes charge. It takes several games to get it right, and the Bulls will learn that today.

John Mitchell is a very good coach and the Bulls looked good first up last week, but the Lions  man for man, and department for department  are just better at this stage.

And they’ve got some game-breakers too, players with real X-factor and here one thinks of Aphiwe Dyantyi, Lionel Mapoe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert and Malcolm Marx.

The Lions’ hunt will move to a new level today.

Saturday Star

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