Handre Pollard, named at inside centre for Saturday clash in Buenos Aires, talks to his his teammates during Saturday's win over the Sharks. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - This clash will go a long way in separating the Super Rugby play-off contenders from the pretenders.

The Jaguares and the Bulls will be embroiled in an almighty tussle in Buenos Aires on Saturday night (kick-off: 11.40pm, SA time), with the winners certain to gain an advantage in the race for the play-offs amongst 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 Saturday's outcome as the Sharks and Stormers are well in the race as the team’s below the conference leaders intensifies in the final rounds of the round robin.

Even though the Jaguares and Bulls will know where 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 especially against teams in your conference count that much more.

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 this season.

As erratic as the Jaguares have been at home, so have the Bulls in trying to maintain some consistency in their performances 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 blows 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,” said Bulls coach John Mitchell.

"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."

Meanwhile, the Blue Bulls Company (BBC) announced contract extension 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.

Bulls team: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard (captain), Johnny Kotze, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl, Marco van Staden, Thembelani Bholi, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Conraad van Vuuren, Adriaan Strauus, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Mox Mxoli, Frans van Wyk, Hendre Stassen, Nic de Jager, Andre Warner, JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw.

IOL Sport

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