On Friday evening, Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria will host a repeat of last year’s semi-final between the Vodacom Bulls – thus far unbeaten at home – and the Brumbies, who will be looking to avenge their defeat last weekend in Bloemfontein.
The Brumbies upset the odds last season to hand the Vodacom Bulls their first-ever home defeat in a playoff. On Friday, they travel to Loftus Versfeld where the team from Pretoria have not yet lost in 2014.
In fact, in the last two seasons, the Vodacom Bulls have won everything at home except for two matches – their semi-final defeat to the Brumbies last year and a draw to the Chiefs two months ago.
That win in the semi-final, was the Brumbies’ first since 2006 and only their fourth ever at Loftus Versfeld.
The Vodacom Bulls will want to avert losing a fifth home game to the team from Canberra on Friday, but they realise it will be tough despite the Brumbies’ defeat in Bloemfontein last weekend.
“We will need to be at our best in facing a Brumbies side that has played some great rugby this year,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
“We have made slight changes for the match and rotated certain players and I believe we will be competitive come Friday.”
Vodacom Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe, who is back in the side, is looking forward to the match.
“It is important to start the match with a lot of energy and I believe everyone will do so,” said Van der Merwe. “We don't look ahead in the competition, but know how important a win will be with regards to a possible play-off spot.”
The Brumbies have included three South Africans, props Ruan and JP Smith, as well Conrad Hoffman, on their bench.
Head to head (since 1998): Vodacom Bulls won 6, lost 10; 422 points for 496 against; 44 tries scored, 62 conceded. Average score: Brumbies 31-26.
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Grant Hattingh, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe (captain), Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Morné Mellett, Marcel van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Jacques Engelbrecht, Piet van Zyk, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers.
Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Robbie Coleman, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (captain), Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Leon Power, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Replacements: Josh Mann-Rea, Ruan Smith, JP Smith, Fotu Auelua, Jordan Smiler, Conrad Hoffman, Andrew Smith, Pat McCabe.
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)