Bulls reap rewards of consistent selection

THERE'S nothing like consistency and Bulls coach Frans Ludeke must be counting his blessings in being able to name an unchanged team to take on the Blues in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday.

THERE'S nothing like consistency and Bulls coach Frans Ludeke must be counting his blessings in being able to name an unchanged team to take on the Blues in Auckland, New Zealand, on Saturday.

Sitting pretty at the top of the log, the Bulls could just about cement a semifinal spot in only week eight of the Super 14 competition if they pick up a bonus point by scoring four tries or more at the weekend.

Five points clear on the log with 28 points - the next best side are the Stormers on 23 - and the Bulls must be odds-on favourites to pick up a second consecutive win on the road.

The halfback combination of Morne Steyn and Fourie du Preez is ticking along nicely while the forward pack appears to be growing in confidence as the weeks go by.

The front row of Werner Kruger, Gary Botha and Gurthro Steenkamp have already made an impression this year, with Botha's return from the UK a bonus.

His lineout coordination with captain Victor Matfield has been spot on and he has beefed up the front row with some much-needed muscle.

Thankfully his three-year spell with the London Harlequins has benefited him.

"The game is different in the northern hemisphere and it was good to experience something of it ... but I am a Blue Bull through and through," Botha says on his blog.

But it's not only in the started XV that the Bulls are strong. The bench includes Springboks Pedrie Wannenburg and Jaco van der Westhuyzen and the rapidly improving Bandise Maku at hooker.

For the Blues, sitting in ninth position on the log, another loss will see them sliding further behind the leading pack in another season that promised so much but has failed to deliver.

Coach Pat Lam appears to be still smarting after his team were pipped 32-39 at the post by the Waratahs last weekend and throughout the week he has been critical of referee Garratt Williamson.

Sniping at Williamson in the press about a game that is in the past will not help his troops with the task ahead.

Lam is yet to name his starting line-up, instead opting to weigh up his options ahead of this all-important clash.

In flyhalf Stephen Brett he has a player in the Earl Rose mould - brilliant one moment, a shambles the next - and it will be interesting to see if he keeps his faith in the incumbent flyhalf or tries another option.

Kickoff is on Saturday morning at 6.30am.

Other matches this Easter weekend - Tomorrow: Hurricanes vs Crusaders (8.35am); Western Force vs Stormers (12.05pm). Saturday: Chiefs vs Highlanders (8.35am); Waratahs vs Cheetahs (10.40am); Sharks vs Reds (5.05pm).

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