Suddenly there is a bit of excitement again surrounding the traditional North/South derby between the Bulls and WP.
It is just a damn pity it is generated because the Bulls are playing youth development side while WP barring a couple of losses to the Boks is fielding one of their strongest teams in years…
But that’s rugby for you, elements will always influence team and team selections but in the end, only the results matter.
WP travel to Pretoria as favourites for two very simple reasons. Their win over the current Champs the Sharks last weekend, and because they field a rather settled and experienced team going up against a team who selected 7 debutants last week!
It is really there for WP to lose, and some serious questions will have to be asked if they manage to lose this one.
Their front row, aided by some grunt in the lock department is finally starting to look the part. The tight 5 in general is boosted by the 60-odd NZ capped veteran in Chris Jack and in Luke Watson they have a player and captain in great form at the moment.
Duvenhage, De Waal and Grant combined in the latter stages of the Super 14 already and achieved some success. And in Newman, an Emerging Bok, the Fijian and the hard ex-Bulls man Welsh they have experience, pace and grunt. The only real weakness is at 15 where Aplon will come in for the injured Joe Pietersen but even Aplon is an accomplished Sevens player and has been in the WP system for a good couple of years now.
Compared to the Bulls who is only really boosted by the return of Guthro in the front row and Olivier at inside center and you would be hard pressed to give this one to the men from Loftus even if they are playing at home.
The biggest concern for the Bulls is combinations. Tiger has come in for the injured Kirchner and they have a very young scrumhalf playing at wing. In addition to this they have a age-group level player covering the important role of 10 for this match and an even more inexperienced player in JC Roos covering him off the bench.
You would also have to concede that the WP loosies have one over the combination of Dries van Schalkwyk, Potgieter and Jacques Burger.
WP also takes the lock battle on paper with Chris Jack for WP up against the young Steenkamp and Flip van der Merwe.
The front row is very even possibly just tipped in the Bulls favour with Guthro’s inclusion but not by much.
The most dangerous combinations the Bulls would have to look out for is the dual kicking threat of De Waal and Grant at 10 and 12, and the much improved loosie combo of Louw, Myburgh and Watson.
WP for the first time in a very long time should achieve parity in the engine room, and perhaps even dominate but that is almost unheard of when you talk about any Bulls team.
Scrums, line-outs, rucks and the kicking game is tipped for the visitors to control and dominate, which should give them the game by a tough, but comfortable 8 to 12 points.
The only thing left to consider, is whether they will be able to overcome the Loftus hoodoo, a place where they last won in 2006…
Blue Bulls: Tiger Mangweni; Gerhard van den Heever, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Francois Hougaard; Francois Brummer, Heini Adams; Dries van Schalkwyk, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Burger; Wilhelm Steenkamp, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuün (captain), Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Frik Kirsten, Jaco Engels, Fudge Mabeta, Gerrit-Jan van Velze, JC Roos, Marius Delport.
Western Province: Gio Aplon; Frikkie Welsh, Morgan Newman, Peter Grant, Sireli Naqelevuki; Willem de Waal, Dewaldt Duvenage; Luke Watson (capt), Pieter Louw, Pieter Myburgh; Anton van Zyl, Chris Jack, Brock Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg and Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: Hanyani Shimange, JD Moller, De Kock Steenkamp, Deon Fourie, Conrad Hoffmann, Juan de Jongh, Tonderai Chavhanga.