Lang Park becomes a mini Pamplona this Saturday when the white-hot Reds take on the Super 14’s Bully-boys. The Bulls are rocking along in first place and looking to confirm their place with a win while the Reds will be aiming for a win to skip clear of the chasing pack.
Link has again gone for size on the bench with a 5 forward 2 back split which isn’t a surprise as a similar tactic went within two points of succeeding against the other behemoths, the Sharks.
It is the game against the Sharks that could perhaps provide the blue print for how the Reds will attack the Blue Bulls.
In the game against the Sharks, the Reds ran the ball the most they have this season (132 times), surprising however, they also recorded their lowest metres per run number in the same game (6.7/run).
When you consider in the same game the Reds also made their lowest number of kicks for the season (18), you get the feeling the game plan was to control the ball in close and make the bigger Sharks’ forwards defend for long periods.
The Reds possession stat from that match of 52% confirms how effective they were at executing this plan.
The Reds didn’t win the match, but it wasn’t due to the lack of a decent game plan with them finishing all over the top of the home team. Indeed a win could have resulted but for a 50/50 call that went against the Reds – but let’s leave that in the past, I’ve had closure.
The Bulls on the other hand lost their first game in Nu Zulund and it was interesting to see how they approached their last outing against the attacking threat of the Chiefs.
In that particular game, a must win for the Bulls, they reverted to type by kicking the ball on 33 occasions, the most for them this season, and also recorded their lowest running metres for a game the year (602).
To me this suggests the Bulls may be running out of steam after almost a month away from Pretoria. They have never won their last game of a road trip before heading home so the writing is on the wall.
If the Bulls are to give the Reds the ball 33 times on Saturday night, you’d think the Reds will rack up a fair few points as on average the Bulls give away 28 points per game.
The trade off for the Bulls is that they also score at a fair clip with more 4 try bonus points than any other team. Significantly however, the Bulls are yet to face the three best defensive teams this season in the Stormers, Saders and Reds.
Much has been made of the Reds’ ill-discipline however I think the last yellow-card Saia Faingaa earned may well have been worth it.
In their last start against the Lions, the Reds showed an interesting way of defending a rolling-maul by not focusing on the line-out jumper, but his supporters.
Daley was penalised and Faingaa yellow carded for taking the supporter out too early, however that was merely a matter of timing and not strategy.
Link perhaps gave the game away this afternoon when he said “The coaches have been looking at the Bulls for the last 10 days and there are bits and pieces that we did last week (in preparing for the Lions) that have relevance this week.”
This game will be a clash of rugby styles and could well be a Petri dish for who will come out on top in this year’s Tri-nations given the running style of the Reds and the attrition style of the Bulls.
Cote says – Fire up the brai – there’s steaks on offer…Reds to carve up the Bulls by 10