For the Vodacom Bulls, second position in the South African Conference is a given if they can beat the Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening. It will also mean that they’ve gone through 2014 unbeaten in Pretoria, but sadly they’ve not won any of their away matches this season.
The Vodacom Bulls’ season will come to an end with their final pool game for only the third time in a decade of Vodacom Super Rugby when they host the Rebels.
The three-time champions have made the knock-out phase of the competition every year since 2005, except for 2008, 2011 and this year.
Although they won’t be contesting the playoffs this year, the Vodacom Bulls will still be aiming to finish their season unbeaten at Loftus Versfeld – thus far they’ve won six and drew one from seven in Pretoria.
If they manage to beat the Rebels this weekend, it will be the fourth time the Pretorians have been unbeaten at home since the franchise system came into being in South Africa in 1998 – they also did it in 2005, 2009 and 2010.
The only other South African team who could manage an unbeaten run at home in one season during this time, are the Cats (2000) and the Cell C Sharks (2001 and 2008).
The Vodacom Bulls did win everything at home last year, but they stumbled over the last hurdle when the Brumbies beat them at Loftus Versfeld in their semi-final.
“We want to end the season well and although our final log position will not be where we wanted, there is no reason why we cannot close out our campaign with a fine performance,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
This encounter will also see Victor Matfield and Frans Ludeke, who both hail from Polokwane in Limpopo province, set new Vodacom Super Rugby records.
Matfield, the Vodacom Bulls’ captain, will lead his side for the 82nd time, which breaks the previous record of 81 matches as captain in this competition by former Reds and Force skipper Nathan Sharpe.
Ludeke will oversee his 132nd Vodacom Super Rugby match as coach, improving on Ewen McKenzie’s record. He coached the Cats/Lions 23 times and the Bulls 108 times.
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Piet van Zyl, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jono Ross, Roelof Smit, Victor Matfield (captain), Paul Willemse, Marcel van der Merwe, Bandise Maku, Morne Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Werner Kruger, Nicolaas Jansse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie, Jesse Kriel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, William Small-Smith.
Rebels: Jason Woodward, Telusa Veainu, Tamati Ellison, Mitch Inman, Tom English, Jack Debreczeni, Luke Burgess, Colby Fainga'a, Scott Fuglistaller (captain), Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Laurie Weeks, Shota Horie, Toby Smith. Replacements: Pat Leafa, Cruze Ah-Nau, Paul Alo-Emile, Lopeti Timani, Jordy Reid, Nic Stirzaker, Lalakai Foketi, Alex Rokobaro.
Head to head (since 2011)
Vodacom Bulls won 2, lost 0.
Points scored 88
Points against 45
Tries scored 12
Tries conceded 6
Average score: 44-23
Vodacom Bulls v Melbourne Rebels
Date: Friday, 11 July
SA Time: 19h10
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Referee: Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)