PREVIEW: Bulls v Crusaders

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Friday, May 5, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 11: Bulls v Crusaders, Sunday May 7, 3.15am (NZT), Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria.
The Bulls are coming off the bye but had victories over the Jaguares (26-13) and the Cheetahs (20-14) before the break. Before that they had lost to the Chiefs (12-28) and the Sunwolves (20-21). The Crusaders are on an unbeaten run in which over their last four games they have beaten the Waratahs (41-22), the Sunwolves (50-3), the Stormers (57-24) and the Cheetahs (48-21). On the negative side, the Crusaders haven't won in Pretoria since 2008. That should provide plenty of incentive to change that statistic.

It may be a while since a South African side has won the Investec Super Rugby competition but one player who has a winner's medal is Bulls loose forward Jacques Potgieter who picked it up during a stint with the Waratahs in Australia. Potgieter proved a tough nut in the Waratahs side and played with the sort of physical ability not too common in Australian sides. He will add significant substance to the loose forward combination for the Bulls and his clash with Pete Samu especially should be full of interest.

Much is made of the role of leadership groups in modern rugby sides, and the Crusaders will find the concept put to the test this weekend having lost two key supports in All Blacks captain and No.8 Kieran Read to a broken thumb and lock and captain Sam Whitelock to a two-game suspension. Flanker Matt Todd has been given the armband for this game with not a lot of obvious support in the backs especially where second five-eighths Tim Bateman is a stand out in terms of experience. Up front there is at least his front row but it will be an interesting test for the side. It is similar in the lineout, where Luke Romano and Scott Barrett will attend to duty in Whitelock's absence. While it is possible to replace players, it is not possible to replace their experience. Against a lineout-oriented side like the Bulls, with Springbok Lood de Jager on board, they face a big day at the office.


Bulls: 1.Pierre Schoeman, 2.Adriaan Strauss (captain), 3.Trevor Nyakane, 4.Jason Jenkins, 5.Lood de Jager, 6.Nick de Jager, 7.Jacques Potgieter, 8.Hanro Liebenberg, 9.Piet van Zyl, 10.Tian Schoeman, 11.Jamba Ulengo, 12.Burger Odendaal, 13.Jesse Kriel, 14.Travis Ismaiel, 15.Warrick Gelant.

Substitutes: 16.Jaco Visagie, 17.Lizok Gqoboka, 18.Jacobie Adriaanse, 19.RG Snyman, 20.Jannes Kirsten, 21.Rudy Paige, 22.Francois Brummer, 23.Jan Serfontein.

Crusaders: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Luke Romano, 5.Scott Barrett, 6.Pete Samu, 7.Matt Todd (captain), 8.Jordan Taufua, 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Richie Mo'unga, 11.George Bridge, 12.Tim Bateman, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Andrew Makalio, 17.Joe Moody, 18.Michael Alaalatoa, 19.Quinten Strange, 20.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21.Bryn Hall, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Ryan Crotty.