Spies and Steenkamp in their 50th games for Bulls

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Gurthro Steenkamp

Gurthro Steenkamp

Spies and Steenkamp are set to reach the 50-game mark against an injury-ravaged Chiefs side on Friday.

The Bulls don’t seem like a team that’s big on navel-gazing and you can hardly blame them.

The Waratahs might have knocked them off their perch at the top of the Super 14 following defeat to the Blues at Eden Park, but they have a game in hand over the Sydneysiders.

They also have something few other teams possess in the Super 14 – a genuine fortress of a home ground in Loftus Versfeld.

It’s a venue to which they will return three more times this season, including a mouth-watering match-up against the Crusaders, perhaps the team most likely to tilt tournament favouritism off the Bulls, on May 8.

It’s part of the reason why captain and lineout king Victor Matfield seemed relaxed about recent events when talking to the press this week. “We started at zero on Monday and if you don’t play every game in this competition like it’s a final you’re in trouble,” he said.

And the Bulls are a long way from trouble.

If experience counts for much, then they have it in spades. Pierre Spies and Gurthro Steenkamp are set to make their 50th appearances for the Bulls tonight, lifting their players who have reached that tally to 10.

Against them are a Chiefs side ravaged by injury. It points to a mismatch, but Matfield does not see it that way, especially with a five-eighths partnership that impressed him last week.

“They were fairly predictable in the past, and that is not meant as a snipe at them because they were very good at executing the type of game they wanted to play,” Matfield said. “It suited their strengths because they have some athletic forwards and very dangerous backs. But you generally knew what to expect.

“However, with Donald at 12 and Delany at 10, they can play in a number of different ways. They’ve tried to stretch us in the past, but I suspect they’ll be slightly more conservative … They’ll probably look to get in behind us and pin us in our half.”

Coach Frans Ludeke has made two changes for the match, both forced by injury. Stephan Dippenaar will replace Jaco Pretorius at center and Heini Adams will replace Derick Kuun on the bench.

[By Dylan Cleaver from www.nzherald.co.nz ]

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