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PREVIEW: Bulls v Chiefs

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Thursday, March 21, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Bulls v Chiefs, 2.05am, Sunday 24 March (NZT), Pretoria

Played: 22
Won: Bulls 8, Chiefs 12, Drawn 2
Last time: Chiefs 41, Bulls 28 (16 March 2018)
Referee: AJ Jacobs

FORM
The Chiefs endured a horror start to their season with four straight losses to the Highlanders, Brumbies, Sunwolves and Crusaders before drawing with the Hurricanes 23-23 last week. Although it wasn’t the win they were looking for, the draw will give the Chiefs belief that they can foot it with the best teams in the competition. The Bulls are the surprise leaders at the top of the South African conference with wins over the Stormers, Lions and Sharks. Their only loss has come away from home to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. 

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TROUBLE AT TEN
The Chiefs will start their fourth different first five-eighth in six games when Jack Debreczeni pulls on the ten jersey in Pretoria. The former Rebels pivot replaces Marty McKenzie who played in last week’s draw against the Hurricanes. Regular first five-eighth Damian McKenzie will start at fullback while Solomon Alaimalo is back from injury and slots in on the left wing. Assistant coach Nick White said Debreczeni deserves his chance to start at ten: "It's a good chance for him to step up and lead the team, put us in the right parts of the field and run our game."
PINPOINT POLLARD
A key to the Bulls early season success has been the form of world class first five-eighth Handre Pollard. The skilful playmaker has racked up a competition leading 74 points so far this season – 28 more than any other player. The Chiefs will need to keep their discipline in check against the Bulls given Pollard’s potency from the tee. He has successfully landed 19 from 21 penalty shots and has the ability to land from distance as well as unerring accuracy from close range.

FAST FACT
The Chiefs have now gone six games without a victory spanning back to 2018 (D1, L5). Only once in Super Rugby history have they gone longer without success (eight games in 2010/11).

THE SCOOP
With two big games away from home against the Bulls and Jaguares before the bye, the Chiefs need to win one, if not both, to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Bulls have proven to be a tough outfit at home in 2019 and the Chiefs will need to show plenty of skill along with heart and determination to come away with the win. Discipline and defence will be two huge factors that will determine the result in Pretoria.

TEAMS
Bulls:
15: Divan Rossouw, 14: Cornal Hendricks 13: Jesse Kriel 12: Burger Odendaal 11: Rosko Speckman 10: Handre Pollard 9: Ivan van Zyl 8: Duane Vermeulen 7: James Kirsten 6: Ruan Steenkamp 5: Jason Jenkins 4: Hanro Liebenberg 3: Trevor Nyankane 2: Schalk Brits 1: Lizo Gqoboka
Reserves: Corniel Els, Simphiwe Matanzima, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Eli Snyman, Tim Agaba, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, Dylan Sage

Chiefs:
15: Damian McKenzie, 14: Sean Wainui, 13: Tumua Manu, 12: Anton Lienert-Brown, 11: Solomon Alaimalo, 10: Jack Debreczeni, 9: Brad Weber, 8: Tyler Ardron, 7: Lachlan Boshier, 6: Luke Jacobson, 5: Mitchell Brown, 4: Brodie Retallick (c), 3: Angus Ta'avao, 2: Nathan Harris, 1: Aidan Ross.
Reserves: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tevita Mafileo, Nepo Laulala, Michael Allardice, Jesse Parete, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Alex Nankivell, Ataata Moeakiola.