Set pieces vital for Bulls

2013-07-27 00:00

A VIVID contrast in playing styles, a typical New Zealand contest in Hamilton and traditional South African fare in Pretoria will be an intriguing feature of today’s Super Rugby semi-finals.

The two most dangerous attacking teams in the competition, the Chiefs and Crusaders, bump in an all-New Zealand semi-final in Hamilton while the Bulls and Brumbies, both playing a territorial, tactical game familiar to South Africans, meet at Loftus.

Remarkably, the Chiefs — who are the title-holders, finished top of the Super Rugby log and are playing at home — are the underdogs in this morning’s first semi-final.

The fast-finishing Crusaders, who finished fourth on the log, have peaked at the right time, winning five matches on the bounce and thumping the Reds 38-9 in last week’s quarter-finals.

The Crusaders, with Dan Carter in sublime form at flyhalf behind an All Black-flavoured pack, will take some holding. But, if the Crusaders are off the boil, they will be punished by the Chiefs’ cut-and-thrust rugby.

While the Crusaders and Chiefs will adopt a ball-in-hand, attacking approach in Hamilton, the Bulls and Brumbies will also be similar in style, playing the percentages and looking to dominate territory at Loftus.

The Bulls will not deviate from their basic no-nonsense pattern while the Brumbies, under South African Jake White, have swopped their ball-in-the-hand, expansive style for a more conservative approach.

“Jake has made Aussies play South African rugby,” his critics have huffed Down Under, but White has transformed a motley crew of largely unknown young players into a thoroughly workmanlike outfit over the past two seasons.

White admits the Brumbies look to play basic rugby without the frills.

“We had to get back to winning ways. People say it is conservative but we had to get building blocks in place first. It has worked for us. We’ve got a recipe now for getting results.”

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is singing from the same hymn sheet.

“The Brumbies play like us. They look for field position and suffocate the opposition. That is why the set pieces are vital.”

Both teams have recently appeared vulnerable. More than matched by the Sharks at forward, the Bulls were fortunate to win 20-19 at Loftus earlier this month but they were well-beaten by the Stormers a week later. The Brumbies, outscored by two tries to nil, squeaked home 15-13 against the Cheetahs at Canberra last weekend and will have to improve dramatically this evening.

White says his team will target the lineout where the Bulls are missing Springbok jumpers Juandre Kruger and Pierre Spies, but the home team have also had problems in the scrums.

If the Brumbies can control the set pieces, they will control the flow of the match and limit Morné Steyn’s influence.

The Brumbies have the record for the most turnovers at the breakdowns but they have also conceded the most penalties.

White said the pilfering of George Smith and company involved risk.

“We mustn’t concede penalties but we must also be as aggressive as possible at the breakdown.”

Steyn, with his kicking, both tactically and at goal, is the key figure as the Bulls chase a juicy carrot and a possible home final against the Crusaders next Saturday.

If Steyn’s forwards, lifted by the Loftus crowd, do their job in the set pieces and on the gainline, the Springbok flyhalf will be sure to add the winning touches.

TEAMS

Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.

Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Morne Mellett, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Jürgen Visser

Brumbies: 15. Jesse Mogg, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Clyde Rathbone, 10. Matt Toomua, 9. Nic White, 8. Ben Mowen (captain), 7. George Smith, 6. Peter Kimlin, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Scott Fardy, 3. Ben Alexander, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Scott Sio

Replacements: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Ruan Smith, 18. Fotu Auelua, 19. Colby Faingaa, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Andrew Smith, 22. Joe Tomane.

Referee: Craig Joubert. Kick-off: 5.05 pm.

Today’s other semi-final: Chiefs vs Crusaders, Hamilton, 9.35 am (SA time). Referee: Steve Walsh.

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