The Waratahs will be determined to make it four successive triumphs in Super Rugby when they play host to the Bulls in Sydney on Saturday.
It’s been some turnaround from Daryl Gibson’s charges as they are now knocking on the Australian Group door, with Friday’s Rebels versus Brumbies match sure to be keenly watched. As it stands they’re level on points with the latter and two points above the Melbourne outfit.
Things are also looking bright in Pretoria as despite a recent defeat, they are very much in the reckoning for a play-off spot, with the Stormers their only rival in Africa 1. With the Capetonians playing the Sunwolves this round, the Bulls must win to avoid losing ground.
It is important however to hold back on the praise for the Bulls and indeed the Stormers and Cheetahs, with that trio not facing any New Zealand franchises in the regular-season. How it reflects a level playing field come July remains a mystery that will be talked to death.
The Bulls do though boast the best tackling success rate in the competition (88 percent) and hooker Adriaan Strauss has the best success rate (95 percent) at the line-out, despite mixing his options. Proof therefore that doing the basics well is paying off for this outfit.
That will be the pre-match message from head coach Nollis Marais as bringing down the Waratahs forward runners, such as Wycliff Palu and Will Skelton, at source will help limit the likes of Bernard Foley and Israel Folau from causing damage wider out. If they can manage it then there is no reason why this hard-working side cannot get back to winning ways, not just this season, but against this week’s hosts.
2014: Waratahs won 19-12 in Sydney
2013: Bulls won 30-19 Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 27-24 in Sydney
2011: Bulls won 23-17 in Pretoria
2010: Bulls won 48-38 in Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 20-6 in Sydney
2008: Bulls won 16-13 in Pretoria
2007: Bulls won 32-19 in Sydney
Waratahs: 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Will Skelton, 4 David Dennis, 3 Tom Robertson, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Paddy Ryan
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Ned Hanigan/Jack Dempsey, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 David Horwitz, 23 Matt Carraro
Bulls: 15 SP Marais, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Dries Swanepoel
Date: Saturday, May 14
Venue: Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:45 local (09:45 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe, James Leckie
TMO: George Ayoub