Preview: Cheetahs v Bulls

The Bulls will be hoping for the Sunwolves to do them a big favour and knock over the Sharks in Durban on Friday so that they will be in with a chance of making the quarter-finals when they play the Cheetahs on Saturday.

The Sharks currently hold the third and final qualifying position in the South African group and a win over the Sunwolves will guarantee them a place in next weekend’s play-off matches and therefore eliminate the Bulls from the competition.

The Bulls currently have 37 points while the Sharks have managed to collect 39 which means that the Pretoria outfit do not have their destiny in their own hands. In order for the Bulls to qualify for the next round the Sunwolves must defeat the Sharks and if this happens then all the Bulls need to do is pick up the victory over the Cheetahs and they will be through.

Meanwhile, Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss has promised that his team is committed to putting in a performance to be proud of on Saturday.

"The Cheetahs will try to finish strong, but so will we. We owe it to ourselves to deliver a performance we all can be proud of. If we fall short in making the play-offs, we only have ourselves to blame, but it will not be because of a lack of trying in our final game,” he said.

Looking ahead to the game on Saturday, both teams will have to sort out their lack of discipline if they are to get any sort of rhythm to their game.

The Bulls and Cheetahs have conceded the most penalties in this year’s competition with the team from Pretoria conceding a staggering 169 throughout the season while the Cheetahs are not far off having infringed on 158 occasions.

The Cheetahs are completely disorganised on defence having missed an average of 21 tackles per a game compared to the Bulls record of 15. The home team will have to make sure that they are able to close down the space and make the Bulls work hard to get over the gain line if they are to be competitive for the full 80 minutes.

The breakdown looks set to be an even contest with the Cheetahs holding a 91 percent success rate at the ruck while the Bulls have managed a 93 percent accuracy rate in this area of the game. Statistics are equally as close in the line-out with the Cheetahs managing an 88 percent success rate while the Bulls have recorded 91 percent.

The scrum is where the Bulls will be looking to set the platform in order to attack the line with first phase possession. The Cheetahs are ranked as the worst scrumming unit in this year’s tournament with a success rate of 77 percent compared to that of 85 percent from the Bulls.

The last time the teams met: The Bulls won 23-18 in Pretoria when the two teams met back in April. The home team outscored their opponents by three tries to two. The Bulls scored their tries through RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins and Jamba Ulengo while fly-half Tiaan Schoeman contributed eight points with one conversion and two penalties. The Cheetahs managed to cross the line courtesy of winger Sergeal Petersen and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld while fly-half Niel Marais contributed eight points with one conversion and two penalties.

Players to watch: Speedster Sergeal Petersen has been at the centre of every attacking opportunity which the Cheetahs have created and finished off this season. The winger is devastating with ball in hand and he will often race past the opposition defence en route to scoring a five pointer down the touchline. Petersen will be looking to add to his remarkable statistics for the season which read: 886 running metres made from 14 games along with 24 clean breaks and nine tries. In the forwards Francois Uys will be required to secure front foot ball for his team at the line-out. The athletic lock has won 81 lineouts which includes three steals from 13 appearances throughout the season and he will want to use his good form in the set-piece to help his team come away with the victory.

As for the Bulls they will look to hooker Adriaan Strauss to set the foundation for his team with a strong showing up front. The skipper is currently the Bulls top try scorer in the 2016 Super Rugby season with six from 13 appearances. Strauss has also been extremely accurate with his throws at the line-out – he has had 143 throws and managed to find his jumper on 133 occasions which leaves him with a 93 percent success rate. In the back-row Lappies Labuschagne has done the hard work with plenty of big hits on defence. The flanker has made 149 tackles in ten appearances this season which leaves him ranked at fourth place for the most tackles made throughout the 2016 Super Rugby campaign.

Team news: Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith has handed the captain's armband to loose forward Oupa Mohoje. Regular skipper Francois Venter sustained a concussion injury against the Sharks last weekend and he is replaced by outside centre William Small-Smith. Mohoje will be supported by flanker Uzair Cassiem and number eight Paul Schoeman in the back-row while Armandt Koster has been selected to start at lock and Charles Marais comes in at loosehead prop.

Meanwhile, the Bulls have made minimal changes for their final round match of the season. Coach Nollis Marais has made two tweaks to his starting line-up as Tian Schoeman is preferred to Francois Brummer at fly-half and Marcel van der Merwe replaces Werner Kruger at tighthead prop.

This game will be a big milestone for Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss as he will become the most capped South African hooker in the Super Rugby competition with 132 appearances.

Form: The Bulls find themselves sitting in fourth position in the South African group with 37 points which includes eight wins, one draw and five defeats from 14 games. Meanwhile the Cheetahs have only managed to win four of their 14 games which leaves them in fifth place in the South African group with 21 points.

The Bulls will take plenty of confidence into this clash after running in seven tries en route to a 50-3 victory over a hapless Sunwolves team at Loftus Versfeld last weekend. The Cheetahs on the other hand will want to put in an 80 minute performance after being competitive for large parts of the game against the Sharks in Durban last weekend before going down 26-10.

Prediction: The Bulls may very well be out of contention for a place in next weekend’s quarter-finals by the time this game kicks-off on Saturday and if this is the case there will still be plenty of pride for both teams to take away from this local derby. The Cheetahs managed to defeat the Bulls 42-29 at Loftus in their final game of the 2015 Super rugby season, however it should be a lot closer this time round. This game is really tough to call if you take into account current form and player quality which both teams have at their disposal. Bulls to beat the Cheetahs by five points.

Previous results:

2016: Bulls won 23-18 in Pretoria
2015: Cheetahs won 42-29 in Pretoria
2015: Bulls won 39-20 in Bloemfontein
2014: Bulls won 26-21 in Pretoria
2014: Cheetahs won 15-9 in Bloemfontein
2013: Bulls won 30-25 in Bloemfontein
2013: Bulls won 26-20 in Pretoria
2012: Bulls won 40-24 in Pretoria

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Oupa Mohoje (c), 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Armandt Koster, 3 Maks van Dyks, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Rayno Benjamin

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 SP Marais

Date: Saturday, July 16
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 19:15 local (17:15 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)