Bulls line up Waratahs for arm wrestle - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bulls line up Waratahs for arm wrestle

14/03/2003 05:41:02 AM Comments (0)

The Auckland Blues may be the new favourites to wrest this season's Super 12 rugby crown off the Canterbury Crusaders, but the series surprise packet has been the startling transformation of the Northern Bulls from also-rans to contenders.

Employing a 10-man game, featuring a dominant forward pack and a scheming flyhalf, the Pretoria-based Bulls are South Africa's top team in the Super 12 after three rounds, picking up 10 points from three away matches.

The Bulls, winless last season and winning only two games in 2001, are joint third with the New South Wales Waratahs and Crusaders heading into the fourth round of the southern hemisphere provincial series this weekend.

The South Africans will get another chance to gauge their rapid improvement when they tackle the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

The Bulls broke through for their first-ever win in New Zealand with a 46-34 beating of the Wellington Hurricanes a fortnight ago and, although losing to the stronger Otago Highlanders last week, they only went down by seven points.

The Bulls look a different team with goalkicking flyhalf Louis Koen playing behind a powerful pack.

The Waratahs, although winners of both their last matches in South Africa, were out-muscled by the Auckland Blues at home in the opening round and will face an acid test from the big men of northern Transvaal.

NSW will be forced to rely on its reserve bench with a virus racing through the camp. Coach Bob Dwyer said a number of players had lost a lot of weight - a bad sign ahead of a match against one of the biggest teams in the competition.

Springbok coach Rudolf Straeuli, in World Cup year, wants to see how his prospects fare against overseas teams and he will get an ideal opportunity when the Western Stormers take on the ACT Brumbies in Canberra tonight.

"I am not looking so much at our derbies ... games between the Sharks and the Stormers," Straeuli said this week. "I want to see how our players measure up against the top overseas players. We are playing the World Cup there (in Australia) and I am looking for players who can win there."

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