Preview: Bulls v Blues

Both teams put their chances of a Rebel Sport Super 14 home semi on the line and the loser no longer controls its own destiny in that regard. Big? It doesn't get much bigger.

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VENUE & TIME: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, Saturday April 28, 05:05 NZT (19:05 Friday local).

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 12 � Northern Transvaal/Bulls 3, Blues 8, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: March 31, 2006 (Auckland) � Blues 30-17 Bulls.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Bulls are going with the same starting line-up which clobbered the Lions, meaning Danie Rossouw's return from suspension starts on the bench. David Gibson has returned to New Zealand with a minor neck problem but otherwise David Nucifora has a full squad to choose from; if eyebrows are raised by the selections, don't go checking the MASH wards for casualties.

FORM: The Bulls are enjoying their return home and have played some excellent rugby in the last two weeks, scoring plenty of tries and commanding their games from start to finish. The pack has been overwhelming but who noticed that last week's five tries were all scored by the three-quarters? That says the Bulls have now got their game together and that can be extremely difficult to stop. The Blues, on the other hand, have got the wobbles and, given the choice, they would hardly wish for this game right now. They were dumb against the Sharks and lost on their merits, while trying to force the issue against the Stormers was just as unsuccessful. They need to remember what they were doing in the first two months; playing it steady, not pushing the envelope and taking their chances.

WHO'S HOT: Just about everyone has played well for the Bulls in the last couple of weeks but it all starts up front with them, and look for Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Guthro Steenkamp to be in the thick of everything. Wikus van Heerden is enjoying working with a winning pack and the return of JP Nel has kick-started the Bulls three-quarters. Wynand Olivier is another dangerous customer who often plays well against New Zealand teams. The Blues have lost their spark in recent weeks and, if anything, the players have been let off lightly. You cannot name a player who has put in a solid 80 minutes recently and nobody has been exempt from the criticism about carelessness.

WE THINK: It's very hard to see the Bulls getting beaten at Loftus given the form and mindset they seem to be enjoying at present. We don't think the Blues can do it, especially as Nucifora appears unsure of his best lineup, and we tip the home team by 10 points in what should be an exceedingly hard game.


Bulls: 1 � Guthro Steenkamp, 2 � Gary Botha, 3 � Rayno Gerber, 4 � Bakkies Botha, 5 � Victor Matfield (captain), 6 � Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 � Wikus van Heerden, 8 � Pierre Spies, 9 � Fourie du Preez, 10 � Derick Hougaard, 11 � Bryan Habana, 12 � Wynand Olivier, 13 � JP Nel, 14 � Akona Ndungane, 15 � Johan Roets.

Reserves: 16 � Jaco Engels, 17 � Danie Thiart, 18 � Danie Rossouw, 19 � Derrick Kuun, 20 � Heini Adams, 21 � Morne Steyn, 22 � Jaco van der Westhuyzen.

Blues: 1 � Tony Woodcock, 2 � Keven Mealamu, 3 � John Afoa, 4 � Greg Rawlinson, 5 � Troy Flavell (captain), 6 � Angus Macdonald, 7 � Daniel Braid, 8 � Jerome Kaino, 9 � Steve Devine, 10 � Isa Nacewa, 11 � Rudi Wulf, 12 � Sam Tuitupou, 13 � Isaia Toeava, 14 � Doug Howlett, 15 � George Pisi.

Reserves: 16 � Derren Witcombe, 17 � Nick White, 18 � Ali Williams, 19 � Justin Collins, 20 � Taniela Moa, 21 � David Holwell, 22 � Anthony Tuitavake.

REFEREE: Stuart Dickinson