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|M. V. Staden||27|
Stay up late to follow this live blog, as the newly-extended hard man Brad Thorn takes his Reds to the Highveld to try to overcome the angry Bulls, fresh off a hideous home loss, and welcoming back their key starters. Join The Roar from 1:15am AEST.
The Bulls cannot afford a home loss in the tight South African conference, while this would be a bonus win for the Reds, as they try to keep momentum.
Coach Pote Human will have been merciless. It’s Human versus Thorn in a battle of wills and oxygen deprivation.
The Bulls don’t build as many phases as the Reds, but captain Handre Pollard (who returns from his Springbok-enforced rest and is in top form), metronome box-kicker Ivan van Zyl, and Bok hopeful Warrick Gelant will test the wits, hands, timing, and boots of Hamish Stewart, Jack Hardy, and Aidan Toua with sky-high punts from all angles.
Neither team breaks the line more than three or four times a game, and are well-disciplined (both are penalised seven times a match this year).
The Bulls tend to win their penalties in kickable positions more than the Reds, and have one of the kicking aces in the competition; Pollard has been on a two-year sublime streak, bested only by that man from Tokyo.
If the Reds let the Bulls kick over 12 to 15 points “for free,” it will be a long game for them.
With phenomenal Bok-Bull giant RG Snyman returning for his 2019 debut, lineout ball will be contested, and at scrum time, loosehead Lizo Gqoboka is raising his hand to be the understudy to Beast Mtawarira and Steven Kitshoff at the World Cup.
The Bulls loose trio is muscled up and mean. So, the Reds will have to avoid falling behind early.
In the backline, local heartthrob Jesse Kriel returns, in his super-tight jersey, to run the hard lines next to underrated No 12 Burger Odendaal.
However, the Reds backline looks to have the edge, if they can win good ball in the right spots, and if Bryce Hegarty or linkman Scott Higginbotham can set them free.
Chris Feauai-Sautia, skipper Samu Kerevi, Toua, and that little sprite Tate McDermott can carve any defence up, if they get a sniff.
One feels, however, that the war and the battle and the match will be won or lost at the coalface. Look for Liam Wright, the Durban boy who moved to the Australian equivalent, and the indomitable Izaak Rodda to get stuck in at rucks, and Alex Mafi and Higgers to try to carry hard.
The Bulls will probably make the Reds have to score 35 to win this one, and that’s a tall order on the first match, in thin air.
Bulls by 15 or so.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jannes Kirsten 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw
15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Jack Hardy, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (captain), 11 Aidan Toua, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith
Substitutes: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Jock Campbell