The legendary Springboks Victor Matfield has an ominous warning—the struggling Bulls are playing like “the Bulls of old”.
Though old himself, Matfield, 37, is playing like the Matfield of old. He was recalled from retirement earlier in the season, to bolster the struggling Bulls.
The Bulls beat the Stormers 28-12 on Saturday (May 10) at home in Pretoria, after making 12 changes to the starting line-up.
Matfield, who played 110 Tests for South Africa before retiring, said the game went according to plan.
Despite falling behind, the Bulls players remained calm and struck to the plan. “A belief is starting to grow in the team,” Matfield said. “I am very happy with this performance.”
The Bulls are ninth on the table, but Matfield’s confidence will worry the leading sides.
Fellow South Africans the Sharks lead the competition, but were beaten by the Brumbies 16-9 in Canberra, continuing poor recent form.
Sharks coach Jake White coached the Brumbies last season, before breaking his contract to return to South Africa.
White was replaced at the Brumbies by his former backs coach, Steve Larkham, who was a legendary fly-half for both the Brumbies and Australia.
The win was particularly significant for Larkham, whose whole career is linked to running rugby. The Canberra clash, though, was a battle of attrition, with the Brumbies being more physical, which was a surprise.
The dour kick-a-thon will give heart to the Brumbies; as the games get tougher leading to the finals, only the tough sides will prosper. Rookie coach Larkham has shown he can prepare the Brumbies for combative matches.
On Saturday (May 17) the Sharks travel to play the Crusaders in Christchurch. The match could see the Sharks knocked from top spot.
The Crusaders will be playing for their sixth straight win, after thrashing the Queensland Reds 57-29 last weekend.
With the June international matches just around the corner, this high-profile game will be coloured by Test aspirations—and intensity.
White will need more than dour defence to beat the Crusaders, who are playing a 15-man game.
On Friday (May 16) the Hurricanes play a New Zealand derby against the Highlanders. The sides are placed sixth and seventh respectively, and both sides are finals contenders.
The Hurricanes have brilliant attacking ability, with a back-line filled with All Blacks, such as captain Conrad Smith. But the young Hurricanes forwards have been surprisingly good, as well.
The Highlanders struggled to beat the lowly Lions 23-22 at home in Dunedin on Saturday (May 10). In fact, the Highlanders should have lost.
Back replacement Elton Jantjies failed to convert a brilliant, last-minute try by winger Courtnall Skosan. Jantjies was distracted by Highlanders defenders, who had illegally charged early.
Despite calls for a second conversion attempt, as specified in the laws, referee Angus Gardner blew full time.
Michael Foley has coached the once lowly Force to fifth place on the table and they should beat the illustrious Stormers in Cape Town.
Though one of the great Super sides, the Stormers are last on the table.
The inconsistent, but star-studded Waratahs are at home to the Lions on Sunday (May 18) and should win. While the Brumbies, who are placed 3rd on the table, should beat the 14th placed Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
The top of the table accurately indicates how close the 2014 Super 15 is: two competition points separate the top three sides. The Sharks, SA, lead on 36 points, followed by the Chiefs (NZ) on 35, then the Brumbies (Australia) on 34.
While the Crusaders, the Force, the Hurricanes and the Highlanders are on either 31 or 30 points.