I know, the people who really know me won`t believe this but here you go, my humble attempt at an unbiased Bulls preview . . .
From a South African perspective the Bulls are obviously the best candidate. They have the players, the management and experience to make it three in a row. More local derby`s also plays right into their hands. The Bulls have an incredible record in super rugby, the last time they dropped a match in South Africa was back in 2008, against the Hurricanes and the Sharks, at Loftus.
Yes they didn`t have an impressive currie cup season in 2010, having lost against teams like the Pumas, but they still managed to make it all the way to the semi finals. They have Fourie du Preez back for the super 15 and he will make the world of difference. Also bear in mind they are the team who adapted to the new law interpretations without so much as a glitch on the radar. Basson and Ralepelle`s hearings could be a slight worry for them. Ralepelle is a Bok hooker and Basson was the form wing in the currie cup last year. If the ruling does go against them, although that is highly unlikely, Francois Hougaard and Derick Kuun will fill in for them at wing and hooker respectively. No sleepless nights for Coach Ludeke then.
They face the Hurricanes, Crusaders, Reds and Force on their tour. Not exactly a walk in the park but you wouldn`t bet against less than two wins for them on the road. Of course I haven`t got the referee fixtures yet.
The Bulls will miss the Brumbies and the Blues this year. Neither one of these should be top contenders in their respective conferences but I would rather miss them than teams like the Rebels and Highlanders which should be easy bonus point victories for a team with the quality of the Bulls.
The bookies have them pinned as second favourite at 3.3 to one at the moment. The only reason the Crusaders are favourites above them is the fact that they actually face the bulls in Christchurch this year and are a shoe-in for the number one spot in New Zealand.
How can teams like the Stormers and Sharks possibly hope to finish above the Bulls then?
Despite the obvious task of winning all your home games, you`ll need the Bulls to slip up against three of their overseas opponents and then make sure you have a perfect tour. The stormers have an advantage since they face the difficult Crusaders at Newlands but they have a difficult encounter with their bogey side, the Brumbies in Canberra.
The Waratahs came close to upsetting the Bulls at Loftus last year and with a bit of luck and no Craig Joubert or Marius Jonker in sight they might pull off a surprise that could open the door for the Sharks and Stormers.
Also bear in mind the super rugby season is a lot longer, somewhere along the line the Bulls will have to tap into their reserve strength, the same reserve strength that couldn`t secure a home semi final in the currie cup last year.
Probable XV: Kirchner, Van den Heever, Watermeyer, Olivier, Hougaard, Steyn, Du Preez, Spies, Daan Rossouw, Matfield, Botha, Stegmann, Kruger, Botha, Steenkamp.
Prediction for the Bulls: 1st on the log, home semi final and their third straight super rugby trophyTweet