The Vodacom Bulls will face the defending champions, the Chiefs from New Zealand, in a rare 15h00 match in Pretoria.
The last time a match kicked off this early at Loftus Versfeld, was last year’s semi-final against the Brumbies, and before that in 2010.
The Vodacom Bulls have won four of their last five Vodacom Super Rugby encounters against the Chiefs, which includes their record win in the 2009 final, the team from Waikato won the last match between these sides, in 2012.
Looking at the Vodacom Bulls’ home record against teams from New Zealand, it’s clear that they are more comfortable against the Chiefs than three of their Kiwi counterparts.
The Vodacom Bulls have won six from eight at home against the Chiefs (75%), which is exactly the same as their winning ratio against the Blues and higher than against the Crusaders (63.6%) Hurricanes (50%) and Highlanders (44.4% from four wins, four defeats and one draw).
Overall against Kiwi sides, the men from Pretoria have won 61.4%, which is worse than against teams from Australia (69%) or their fellow South Africans (64.9%).
But they have been very good at Loftus in recent years, losing only three of their last 20 home matches.
“We managed to pick up some good momentum over the last couple of weeks and with no new injuries, we can look at maintaining that,” said Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke earlier this week.
But Victor Matfield, the Vodacom Bulls’ third captain this season following injuries to Pierre Spies and Flip van der Merwe, warned that the Chiefs will provide a stern test at Loftus Versfeld.
“They are not the champions for nothing,” said Matfield. “They are well-balanced with a lot of strike power at the back, but also have a solid and strong first phase in their play. We will have to be very accurate and use our changes if we want to be victorious.”
The Chiefs made eight changes to their side.
Anton Lienert-Brown (18) is given his debut on the wing.
Tim Nanai-Williams experienced a minor hamstring tweak in Perth and will move to the bench, being replaced by Andrew Horrell.
Ben Afeaki will start off the bench and is joined by Jamie Mackintosh, Mahonri Schwalger, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane and Gareth Anscombe.
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (captain), Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Morné Mellett, Marcel van der Merwe, Grant Hattingh, Jono Ross, Piet van Zyl, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers.
Chiefs: Mils Muliaina, Anton Lienert-Brown, Andrew Horrell, Tom Marshall, Asaeli Tikoirotuma, Aaron Cruden (c), Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Kane Thompson, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Matt Symons, Ben Tameifuna, Rhys Marshall, Pauliasi Manu. Replacements: Mahonri Schwalger, Jamie Mackintosh, Ben Afeaki, Michael Fitzgerald, Sam Cane, Augustine Pulu, Gareth Anscombe, Tim Nanai-Williams.
Kick-off: 15h00 (SA Time)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Credit: SARU Corporate Affairs