The Bulls’ disappointing season takes another test when they face the defending champions, the Hurricanes, in Pretoria on Saturday.
After Thursday’s announcement that former All Blacks, Western Force and Lions boss John Mitchell, who is currently the USA’s head coach, will take over the reins at the Bulls, there is some optimism in the three-time champions’ ranks.
Mitchell only joins the Bulls, in July, however, so for now they will prepare for this weekend’s clash with Nollis Marais still in charge and if their results from previous matches in this year’s tournament is to be used as a benchmark, then this is going to be another difficult fixture for the home side.
The Bulls have won just three out of their 11 matches so far this year although all those matches were at Loftus Versfeld. However, they also suffered a humiliating 62-24 loss to the Crusaders at home in Round 11.
They have been on the winning side in just one of their last 11 games against New Zealand opposition – suffering nine defeats and drawing one of those fixtures.
The Hurricanes have won their last two games against the Bulls, snapping a four-game losing streak against them spanning 2009 to 2013. The champions have won the opening game of each of their last two South African tours, though the last time they opened a South African tour against the Bulls ended in a 48-14 loss in Round 12, 2013.
The men from Wellington are one of the leading attacking teams in the competition. They have gained 555 metres per game this season, the most of any team in the competition and one of only two teams to average more than half a kilometre per match, along with the Crusaders.
The last time the teams met: The Hurricanes had to dig deep but eventually secured a narrow 17-13 victory in Pretoria in 2015. Both sides scored a try each with Julian Savea dotting down for the visitors and Handré Pollard crossed the whitewash for the Bulls. Pollard also kicked all the Bulls’ other points and Beauden Barrett slotted four penalties for the Hurricanes.
2015: Hurricanes won 17-13 in Pretoria
2014: Hurricanes won 25-20 in Napier
2013: Bulls won 48-14 in Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 26-14 in Napier
2010: Bulls won 19-18 in Pretoria
2009: Bulls won 19-14 in Wellington
2008: Hurricanes won 50-22 in Pretoria
2007: Hurricanes won 17-9 in Wellington
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Duncan Matthews, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jesse Kriel, 10 Tiaan Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Coenraad van Vuuren, 19 Abongile Nonkontwana, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Ulrich Beyers
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Loni Uhila
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Ben Lam
Date: Saturday, May 27
Venue: Loftus Versfeld
Kick-off: 15:05 local (13:05 GMT)
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman, Jaco Pretorius
TMO: Christie du Preez