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Match Preview: Bulls v Crusaders

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Thursday, May 9, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match Detail: Bulls v Crusaders, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 5.10am 11 May 2019 

Played: 26
Won: Bulls 10; Crusaders 16
Last time: Crusaders won 33-14, 23 March 2018
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge

FORM
The Crusaders will be determined to bounce back from last week’s 21-21 draw with the Sharks in Christchurch. They weren’t given many opportunities to strike, so they will be looking to get the ball out to their dangerous backs. They welcome back Richie Mo’unga and Ryan Crotty, who will play key roles in that Crusaders backline attack. David Havili also comes into the starting side at fullback in place of Will Jordan who did not travel with the Crusaders to South Africa due to a foot injury sustained in the Sharks match. Despite beating the Waratahs at home last weekend, the Bulls will be hoping for a stronger finish. They had an early 21-7 lead, but nearly blew it, allowing the Waratahs right back into the game. Bulls captain Handre Pollard realises they must perform well in the remaining weeks of the Super Rugby competition.
STATS
The stats favour the Bulls ahead of this exciting contest. The Pretoria franchise have won five of their last six Super Rugby matches against the Crusaders at home. However, they did succumb to a 62-24 defeat in their last fixture in South Africa two years ago. Bulls captain Handre Pollard tops the chart for the most points scored so far in Super Rugby 2019. He’s on 136, averaging 15.1 points per game. He’s 38 points clear of his nearest rival, Hayden Parker from the Sunwolves. The Crusaders do have success when they play in Africa. Scott Robertson’s side have won seven of their last eight Super Rugby matches on the continent, winning their last four in a row. 

BULLS BOLSTERED
The Bulls have welcomed back Springbok hooker Schalk Brits after the competition of his suspension. Brits was banned for four weeks for punching Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe back in March. The home side will also have another Springbok in their starting side, with lock Jason Jenkins returning from injury. Jenkins will partner RG Snyman at lock, while Jannes Kirsten will play blindside flanker. The experienced Duane Vermeulen will play No 8. 

THE SCOOP
Make sure to keep an eye out for the battle between the first five-eighths. Richie Mo’unga up against Handre Pollard. As mentioned, Pollard is the competition’s highest point scorer so far. He’s kicked 48 goals, the most of any player in Super Rugby 2019. Mo’unga has also been in scintillating form and he’ll be fresh off a break, having sat out of last week’s draw with the Sharks. 

FAST FACT (Opta Sports)
The Crusaders (87%) boast the best tackle success rate in Super Rugby 2019, just one percentage higher than the Bulls on 86%. 

TEAMS
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard (C), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka. Reserves: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw 

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty (VC), 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd (C), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Mitchell Dunshea, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor (VC), 1 Joe Moody. Reserves: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Whetukamokamo Douglas, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor