On Saturday at Loftus Versfeld it won’t be any different as many youngsters from both the Bulls and Cheetahs sides try to carve a name for themselves in the greater landscape that is South African rugby.
While there might be nobody with authority to have watched over them in the past few weeks, both sets of players will know by kick-off on Saturday that the new Springbok coach will possibly be watching their game with interest. It is only two months away from Ireland touching down on our shores to take part in what will be an interesting duel against the Springboks. As much as the players claim to have their full attention on Super Rugby, the truth is that many have already cast the eyes on being part of the Springbok squad for the inbound tour.
So Loftus will be the theatre where many aspirant Springboks will be putting on a performance of a lifetime as they seek to contribute to theirrespective teams’ Super Rugby hopes but at the same time to make enough of an impression to be considered come the time to wear the Green and Gold.
The Bulls have blown hot and cold so far this year but for the better part of the season, they have looked the part and owe it to themselves to play out two perfect halves of rugby that will complement the talent within their team.
While a collective effort from the team has been the reason why they have only lost one out of their four matches, there will have to be a handful of individuals who will have to play out of their skins on Saturday to repel whatever it is that the Cheetahs will bring with them.
As obvious as it may be that the Cheetahs will do their best to run the Bulls out of their socks, the men from Bloemfontein will need to earn that right and they have proven over the past few weeks that they aren’t scared of making the hard yards through forward toil.
The scrums will obviously be a massive battle with Gary Botha (Bulls) and Daan Human (Cheetahs) now lending advice to the teams on how to gain dominance in the set-piece. The Bulls have shown improvement at line-out time but they will face another formidable second row pairing in Francois Uys and Lood de Jager.
Much of who enjoys the most possession will be determined at the breakdown and as much as it is the duty of the loose forwards to be on hand to secure or steal possession, the reality of it is that the team that collectively gets involved and dominates the rucks will enjoy most of the possession. The backs will probably have the ultimate say in which way this encounter goes on the scoreboard as both teams will be eager to get the ball out wide to their speedsters.
The Bulls have scored some sublime tries this season but the Cheetahs are never a team to be upstaged, especially with the taste of their maiden victory in the capital last year still fresh in their minds, it promises to be a festival of running rugby engineered from some fierce battles upfront.
BULLS V CHEETAHS: THE KEY BATTLES
GQOBOKA, STRAUSS, VAN DER MERWE (BULLS) VERSUS NCHE, VAN JAARSVELD, COETZEE (CHEETAHS)
It is going to be a fierce battle come scrum time and while the Bulls have the experience of two Springboks and a dominant scrum of late, it is the youthful enthusiasm of a proud Cheetahs scrum that will keep the fire burning in the bellies of the young Cheetahs frontrow. A good scrum is first-class attacking option for the team with possession and it will be a tool both teams will want to use as best they can
ODENDAAL, SERFONTEIN (BULLS) VERSUS LEE, VENTER
It is a mouthwatering prospect to see how incumbent Springbok Jan Serfontein will fare against Francois Venter who has been knocking on the door of the national team for the past 12 months. This is where either one of these teams will have their back broken and while Serfontein and Venter will be embroiled in a duel of their own, spare a thought for debutant Nico Lee who will be facing Burger Odendaal
KRIEL, ISMAIEL, ULENGO (BULLS) VERSUS BLOMMETJIES, PETERSEN, RHULE (CHEETAHS)
It is these six men that have been tasked with finishing whatever it is that happens in the engineroom and whether it is from scraps or meaningful ball with time and space, the bulk of the points should come from the outside backs. The Bulls backs carry with them confidence coming into this game and with Jesse Kriel back in the familiar position of fullback, Jamba Ulengo and Travis Ismaiel will have plenty of good ball and space to feed off. The Cheetahs on the other hand have raw pace and the unpredictability of play from Clayton Blommetjies and Sergeal Petersen while Raymond Rhule can be a handful when in the mood.
PAIGE, SCHOEMAN (BULLS) VERSUS VENTER, MARAIS (CHEETAHS)
The decisions made by the halfback pairings of both teams could potentially win or lose the game for these teams. The Bulls will rely on the experience and level head of Springbok scrumhalf Rudy Paige while Tian Schoeman will need to give direction to his team through his boot and decide when to unleash his backs. The Cheetahs may lack in experience when it comes to Shaun Venter and Neil Marais as a combination but they have been brave enough so far to make the right decisions and often make good use of the ball they get.
SNYMAN, JENKINS (BULLS) VERSUS UYS, DE JAGER (CHEETAHS)
Go back a few years and it would have been no contest to which of the two sides would win this battle. But the tables have turned and gone are the legends of the line-out like Victor Matfield and Co and in comes Lood de Jager and Francois Uys. The two Cheetahs men form the heart and soul of the Cheetahs pack and will be a stern test for the fledgling careers of RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins. A good line-out will be a worthy weapon in the attacking team’s arsenal as it provides for good front foot ball from the rolling maul.
Original source: Bulls v Cheetahs: A chance to shine