Super Rugby preview: Waratahs hosts the Bulls at the Allianz Stadium
Last Updated: 17/04/14 11:26am
The Waratahs will aim to work their way back into play-off contention on Saturday as they welcome the Bulls to the Allianz Stadium in Sydney.
A chequered run of three losses and two defeats in their last five outings has seen Michael Cheika's side slip to fifth in the Super Rugby standings.
However, all four of the Waratahs' wins this season have come with a bonus point, meaning they sit just two points adrift of fourth-placed Melbourne Rebels.
The Pretoria-based Bulls meanwhile reside in mid-table having won just three of their opening eight fixtures and are without a win in their last three matches.
Although the Waratahs boast a healthier league position so far this term, it was the Bulls who prevailed in their only meeting last season, winning 30-19 at Loftus Versfeld.
Israel Folau will make an eagerly anticipated return for the Waratahs on Saturday having not featured since Round 6.
Folau has been absent for Cheika's side for the last three games with a throat injury, but the try-scoring full-back has been cleared to start in an otherwise unchanged back line.
A strong performance at the scrum recently has seen Cheika retain the starting front row of Benn Robinson, Tatafu Polota Nau and Sekope Kepu, while a dynamic display last week earns Will Skelton a place alongside Kane Douglas in the second row.
Meanwhile, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has named an unchanged side following their 27-20 reverse at the hands of the Highlanders.
Lock Flip van der Merwe has been passed fit after sustaining a blow last weekend and will lead the team for their third tour match to Australasia.
Ludeke has made just one change on his bench, where Rudy Paige will act as scrum-half cover and could make his first appearance of the season.
The Bulls coach has been impressed by elements of his team's performances in recent weeks but claims they must discover a well-rounded performance if they are to challenge top teams.
"We are very keen to get back on the winning trail," Ludeke told the Bulls' official website.
"We had opportunities in Napier and Dunedin, but could not convert enough of those to secure us victory. We have played well in patches, so will be looking for a solid performance in Sydney.
"We realise we are facing one of the leading teams in the competitions in the Waratahs, who has been playing great rugby this season, but also know that we are very hard to beat if we stay in our structures, rhythm and manage to keep the ball."
Waratahs: 15 Folau, 14 Crawford, 13 Ashley-Cooper, 12 Beale, 11 Horne, 10 Foley, 9 Phipps; 1 Robinson, 2 Polota-Nau, 3 Kepu, 4 Skelton, 5 Douglas, 6 Potgieter, 7 Hooper, 8 Dennis (capt).
Replacements: To be confirmed...
Bulls: 15 Visser, 14 Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Serfontein, 11 Hougaard, 10 Potgieter, 9 Van Zyl; 1 Greyling, 2 Visagie, 3 Kruger, 4 F van der Merwe (capt), 5 Matfield, 6 Ross, 7 Du Plessis, 8 Hattingh.
Replacements: 16 Mbonambi, 17 M van der Merwe, 18 Willemse, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Small-Smith, 21 Pollard, 22 Paige, 23 Mellet.
Super Rugby 2014 Round 10
Sharks retained their place at the Super Rugby summit with a 19-8 victory over the Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday.
Waratahs moved fourth in the Super Rugby standings with a 19-12 victory over the Bulls at the Allianz Stadium.
Rock-bottom Stormers host the Lions at Newlands looking to pick up just their second Super Rugby win of the season.