Preview: Chiefs v Bulls

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Thursday, March 30, 2017    Getty Images

The Chiefs are feeling rested and rejuvenated after a bye week, and go into Saturday's clash with a patchy win over the Rebels (27-14), as well as victories over the Hurricanes (26-18), Blues (41-26), and Highlanders (24-15). 
FMG Stadium Waikato has been a difficult venue for the Bulls to play, claiming just two wins in their 10 attempts in Chiefs territory. They will go in with some confidence, however, after beating the Waikato franchise 28-7 in a pre-season match earlier this season in Brisbane.
The Bulls, meanwhile, have lost three out of four games to start their season to sit fourth-bottom on the 18-team ladder. Their sole victory was a 34-21 win over the Sunwolves in Pretoria. Their New Zealand record has not been flash of late, with just one victory from their last 11 matches on Kiwi soil.

In a Super Rugby round full of milestone achievements, Liam Messam's 150th match for the Chiefs surely sits above them all. The 11-year veteran is someone coach Dave Rennie says epitomises Chiefs mana with his leadership and work ethic. In a typically selfless move, the Tuhoe flanker and his side are shaving their heads to support Ka'iulani Forbes, the two-year-old girl battling stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma.

The Bulls will be looking for their first away win over the Waikato franchise since a 33-19 win in 2010. However, it is the hosts with the most on the line on Saturday night. The Chiefs will be looking to claim back-to-back wins against the visitors for the first time since 2002.

The Bulls have made a number of positional changes this week, some to accommodate injuries. Jesse Kriel moves from centre to fullback, relegating Warrick Gelant to the bench. Rudy Paige gets the start at halfback at the expense of Piet van Zyl, while lock Jason Jenkins and loosehead Lizo Gqoboka have been dropped for RG Snyman and Pierre Schoeman respectively. Jaco Visagie has dropped out of the matchday squad altogether, making room for Edgar Marutlulle on the bench.


Chiefs: 1.Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 2.Hika Elliot, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Dominic Bird, 5.Brodie Retallick, 6.Liam Messam, 7.Sam Cane (co-captain), 8.Michael Leitch, 9.Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 10.Aaron Cruden (co-captain), 11.James Lowe, 12.Johnny Fa'auli, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14. Shaun Stevenson, 15.Damian McKenzie.

Substitutes: 16.Brayden Mitchell, 17.Kane Hames, 18.Atu Moli, 19.Taleni Seu, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Finlay Christie, 22.Stephen Donald, 23.Solomon Alaimalo.

Bulls: 1.Pierre Schoeman, 2.Adriaan Strauss (captain), 3.Trevor Nyakane, 4.RG Snyman, 5.Lood de Jager, 6.Ruan Steenkamp, 7.Nick de Jager, 8.Arno Botha, 9.Rudy Paige, 10.Handré Pollard, 11.Jamba Ulengo, 12.Burger Odendaal, 13.Jan Serfontein, 14.Travis Ismaiel, 15.Jesse Kriel.

Substitutes: 16.Edgar Marutlulle, 17.Lizo Gqoboka, 18.Jacobie Adriaanse, 19.Jason Jenkins, 20.Jannes Kirsten, 21.Piet van Zyl, 22.Tian Schoeman, 23.Warrick Gelant.