Bulls have an opportunity they must take

Not only will the Bulls move to the top of the Super 14 log – a position they held for the first five rounds – if they beat Super 14 log leaders Chiefs at Loftus on Saturday, but they will also take step closer to a home semi-final.


But, so close is the competition that the Hurricanes, who play the Brumbies in Wellington, and the Blues, who should thump the Reds in Auckland this weekend, could also top the log after this round.


The Chiefs have been perennial slow starters in the competition. This year was no different until they started getting some impressive wins from the fourth round onwards – and have remained unbeaten in those six matches.


On their day, the Chiefs can be devastating. They have game breakers aplenty, an ability to use the loose ball, and the realisation that a win would put them in the pound seats en route to the play-offs.


With the Hurricanes having the Brumbies at home in Hamilton, the New Zealand side still have a mountain to climb before a home semi-final or even a semi is theirs.


The Hurricanes, in particular, will be a real test, although the Brumbies could also be a difficult hurdle, depending on their log position and corresponding motivation.


The Bulls will be at their very best. They have that knack of turning it on when it matters – something which comes from the 1940s and has not changed. Ask the Sharks about the 2007 final as a latest and perfect example.


Against the Brumbies – a match they lost 32-31 – the Bulls, at times, played some of the best rugby in the competition this year, especially up front. Concentration to do that for 80 minutes will bring them a win and possibly the log leadership.


They have Victor Matfield back. More than his lineout play, his influential leadership will give the Bulls a boost on a field where they are not easily beaten if the crowd gets behind them. Some 40 000 are expected to do just that on Saturday.


The Bulls will not deviate from their game plan. They will kick high, kick far, follow up with their defensive lines in place, and try to pin the Chiefs in their own territory.


They will avoid mistakes, try and keep their discipline, and strike when it matters. It’s worked so far, and Frans Ludeke and his men are confident it can work again. They will try and do against the Chiefs what the Cheetahs and the Crusaders did against the Sharks – minimise mistakes, and thereby prevent counter-attacks.


The Hurricanes are a mere two log points ahead of the Brumbies. They, too, can consolidate their top-four position when they clash in Wellington. Conversely, a Hurricanes win will make it very difficult for the Brumbies to come back into play-off contention.


They still have the Reds and Chiefs away and only the Blues as a remaining home fixture after this weekend’s fixture.


The Hurricanes have a more dangerous side, better game breakers and, as a drawback, the inability to win when it matters stemming from a lack of patience. They should, however, be able to take at least four points from this match and move ahead of the Sharks and perhaps even the Bulls.


– Even allowing for the surprise the Cheetahs sprang against the Sharks, one cannot see them repeating it against a Crusaders side built around their goal to play perfect, fault-free rugby. They can be, but are not always, as exciting as in years gone by, but the defending champions have been doing the right things at the right time lately – except for their goal-kicking, that is.


Not as devastating on the counter as the Chiefs or the Sharks, their honest rugby should be enough to doom the Cheetahs to another defeat.


– At home in Auckland, the Blues should very much have it their own way against the Reds who have had their moments. The Reds provided much entertainment and, in the case of the Shark

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