The Vodacom Bulls play their 1st home match of the season when they host the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
We are only into the 3rd week of the Vodacom Super Rugby season but it is fair to say that this is a must win game for the Vodacom Bulls. A pair of local derby defeats on the road mean they are still searching for their 1st win and the home comforts of Loftus will be most welcome this weekend. They won 100% of regular season home matches in 2013 eventually losing that record to the Brumbies in the semifinal and any playoff chances this season will mean creating a similar fortress mentality in Pretoria.
The loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein was that bit harder to stomach than the week 1 defeat to the Sharks where the Vodacom Bulls had started as underdogs according to the rugby betting . The Cheetahs had never beaten them in Vodacom Super Rugby but the home side was never headed winning a low scoring game in poor conditions.
The Lions have been the surprise packet of the season winning both of their opening matches against the Cheetahs and Stormers. In both games the online betting had them close to a double digit handicap but they played with heart and conviction to show that in this game reputations mean very little. Positive on attack they are now more resolute on defense than previous Lions teams and they come into this clash bubbling over with confidence, something very rare for a Lions team. Flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff has been superb both kicking for posts and out of hand and his partnership with scrumhalf Faf de Klerk (like Boshoff only playing due to injuries) has been a revelation.
Head to Head
2012: Bulls 37 Lions 20
2012: Lions 18 Bulls 32
2011: Bulls 30 Cheetahs 23
2011: Lions 20 Bulls 24
2010: Bulls 51 Lions 11
The Bulls have won 9 consecutive Vodacom Super Rugby matches against the Lions with the Lions last victory in Johannesburg in 2005.
History may point very firmly to a Vodacom Bulls win but we have seen in 2014 that the record books can be easily rewritten. The Cheetahs had never lost to the Vodacom Bulls and the Stormers had won their previous 13 matches against the Lions.
The Vodacom Bulls would normally start this fixture as big favourites in the rugby betting but that will certainly not be the case given the differing starts to the season the sides have had.
They will be hoping for better conditions having endured heavy humidity in Durban and rain in Bloemfontein but ultimately the key to a Vodacom Bulls victory will be finding ways to turn possession into points.
Their opponents are brilliant counter attackers not afraid to have a go and as mentioned above they have a place kicker able to punish penalties from a long way out and from any angle.
This will be a thrilling encounter and I don’t see a big margin between the sides come the final whistle. The Vodacom Bulls desperation to win coupled with home ground advantage should see them home by a narrow margin.