Super Rugby 2019: Blues vs Bulls
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria (SA)
Date: Saturday, 15 June 2019
The recent matches between these two teams have not always gone the way of the home side. Over the last five games they have played, the away side has won three of the five contests played. It is also worth noting that over that same five-game span between the Lions and the Bulls, the Lions have won four of the matches and lost just one.
There are nine teams vying for four wildcard playoff spots as the top four are locking in place. Of those four sides, it is the Bulls best placed to finish fifth, avoiding the heaviest of hitters in the first round of the playoffs.
They have reached their bid for fifth with a very unusual two wins, two defeats, and two draws over their last six games. The Bulls have actually drawn their last two games, 24-24 with the Highlands and 22-22 with the Blues. No team in the history of the competition has ever drawn three games on the bounce. Does that make the draw at 22.00 more or less attractive as a bet?
The Lions have three wins and three defeats in their last six games. This pretty much sums up the season for the finalists from the last two years, with the Lions never really finding any kind of consistent form or putting a run of wins together. Their best performance in the last six was their 38-29 home win over a very dangerous Highlanders squad.
More than anything the Bulls will be happy to be back home after a grueling month-long tour that saw them play two games each in Australia and New Zealand. To even have the inside track on that fifth spot after such a big trip late in the season, when fatigue and injuries play their biggest role, is impressive.
The Bulls will also have a paid of Springboks back in the fold for their biggest game of the season so far. Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant have both boosted the squad by being declared fit for the derby, with Kriel recovering from an ankle injury he picked up in April and Gelant returning from a hamstring niggle.
Questions remain, however, about the health of Schalk Brits and Marco van Staden after they were placed in the concussion protocol this week.
The Lions are in a slightly more tricky position than the Bulls entering the round, but, because this is the final game of Round 18 and the final match of the regular season, they will know exactly what they need to do in order to make the playoffs before kickoff.
A losing bonus point would seem to be a minimum requirement, depending on other results, so it will be interesting to see exactly how the Lions chose to attack this game.
The Lions pack will be without a number of big names for this clash, with the likes of Kwagga Smith, Warren Whiteley, Sti Sithole, and Jacobie Adriaanse all on the injury list. It will be time for a number of the young, hungry forwards in the Lions pack to step up and show they are ready for a game of this magnitude.
This is a hard match to call. Both teams will want to win here, regardless of other results, because avoiding the likes of the Crusaders and Los Jaguares (on the road) early in the playoffs is huge. The Bulls are in slightly better form, and they are healthier, so they are the pick at 0.55 here with BetXChange.