The dangerous Blues arrive at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon looking for their second successive Vodacom Super Rugby victory in Pretoria – something not a lot of overseas teams can boast.
On their last visit to the South African capital city, Gareth Anscombe scored all of the Blues’ points as they shocked the Vodacom Bulls by 29-23. But last year, the Pretorians won in Auckland.
Anscombe is no longer with the Blues, but they still have one of the most dangerous backlines around – which is underlined by the fact that, of all the teams to play more than one fixture this season, the Blues have averaged more defenders beaten (22.5) than any other side.
However, if the Vodacom Bulls can keep up their strong performances in the scrums and line-outs, they should put the visitors on the backfoot, negating their dangerous attackers.
The Vodacom Bulls have a 92% success rate at scrum time and 90% in the line-outs, which puts them in the upper echelons when it comes to these set pieces. And the Blues have not started the season well in these aspects of the game – 57% in the scrums and 78% in lineouts.
But the Pretorians have scored only two tries in three matches and the Blues seven in two. This is the big difference between the two teams.
“We know what the Blues will bring this weekend,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.
“They are a quality side and as we saw in the first two games, they can move the ball around, the players are good in the offload and they have good skills in contact situations. They keep the ball alive very well.
“We would like to improve on last week’s performance. The focus is again on the way we controlled the game and converted opportunities into points.”
Akona Ndungane will join his twin brother, Odwa, and 21 other South Africans on a special list when he plays in his 100th Vodacom Super Rugby match this weekend.
They are the second set of brothers to achieve this feat, following in the footsteps of Odwa’s team-mates at the Cell C Sharks, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis.
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Jono Ross, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe (captain), Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Morné Mellet, Marcel van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Jacques Engelbrecht, Piet van Zyl, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers.
Blues: Charles Piutau, Frank Halai, George Moala, Jackson Willison, Tevita Li, Simon Hickey, Piri Weepu, Peter Saili, Luke Braid (captain), Steven Luatua, Tom Donnelly, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta’avao, Patrick Tuipulotu, Brendon O’Connor, Bryn Hall, Chris Noakes, Pita Ahki.
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
Television match official: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
Credit: SARU Corporate Affairs