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The final action in Round 4 of Super Rugby comes from Loftus on Saturday where the Bulls clash with the Sharks in a South African Conference derby.
The Bulls have put down 2 early markers in terms of theor South African derby matches. They started their campaign with a 40-3 demolition of the Stormers at Loftus to earn a bonus point and last week they came away from a visit to the Lions 30-12 to the good (2 tries each). In between there was a disappointing display in 27-12 loss to Jaguares in Buenos Aires where they never hit anything like the same heights and came away empty handed.
The Bulls finished Round 3 in second spot in the SA Conference, 2 points adrift of their opponents here but only 6 points cover the 5 teams in this division.
The Bulls now take aim at the Sharks and the head to head record is very much in their favour with the Bulls having won 8, drawn 1 and lost 1 of the last 10.
The Sharks retained top spot in the SA Conference despite tasting defeat for the first time last week. They were many punters idea of best bet material for their home fixture against the Stormers but they were beaten 16-11 in a forgettable game in Durban. A round earlier the Sharks had earned a bonus point with a 26-7 home win over the Blues whilst in Round 1 they thrashed the Sunwolves 45-10 in Singapore.
The Sharks were trounced 40-10 in Durban by the Bulls in the first meeting between the sides in 2018 but the return at Loftus was far more competitive with only 6 points separating the teams. The Sharks did draw 16-16 on their visit to Loftus in the 2016 season but their last win against the Bulls in Pretoria came back in 2011.
Logic has counted for little in many of these SA Conference matches so far so how much emphasis should be put on the Bulls 2 derby wins in these early rounds is open to debate.
I fancy this will be close, as has been the case in many head to heads between these teams at Loftus and I’ll go with the home win by 1-12 points inclusive.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Ivan van Zyl 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Tim Agaba, 6 Jannes Kirsten, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Hanro Liebenberg, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Paul Schoeman, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Sharks: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10.Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Wian Vosloo, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Substitutes: 16 Fezokhule ‘Fez’ Mbatha, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Andre Esterhuizen, 23 Curwin Bosch.