Heyneke’s Hougi masterstroke

Derick Hougaard has edged out Morne Steyn and will wear 10 against the Cheetahs tomorrow night. It is a gamble by coach Heyneke Meyer, but equally insightful.

Meyer is renowned as one of the finest tacticians in the country, and the selection of Hougaard shows he has done his homework.

The Bulls played the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein once last season, during the Premier Division of the Currie Cup. Meyer afforded Hougaard a rare opportunity to start, and was duly rewarded as the maligned pivot produced his finest performance of the season.

He kicked with efficiency, turned the Cheetahs pack and allowed his forwards the opportunity to play on the front foot. It was a snapshot into the potential that saw Hougaard heralded as the saviour of South African rugby only two years previously.

The display contrasted with Morne Steyn’s Currie Cup final calamity, and was enough for Meyer to exhibit his devout faith in Hougaard once more.

Hougaard’s selection does indicate that the Bulls are not going to venture far from the tactics that saw them steamroller to a Vodacom Super 12 semi-final last year.

Both Hougaard and Fourie du Preez will be tasked with winning the battle of the boot against counterparts Willem de Waal and Michael Claassens. It will be the critical focus of the evening, as the similarity of Hougaard and De Waal means that whoever has the better game is likely to end on the winning side.

For the first time in a while, the only question mark hovering over the Bulls concerns their pack. As predicted earlier in the week, there will be six changes from the unit that lost in the Currie Cup final late last year.

Bakkies Botha and Jacques Cronje are the only survivors.

BULLS SIDE TO PLAY THE CHEETAHS

15. Johan Roets
14. Akona Ndungane
13. JP Nel
12. Wynand Olivier
11. Bryan Habana
10. Derick Hougaard
9. Fourie du Preez
8. Jacques Cronje
7. Johan Wasserman
6. Danie Rossouw
5. Francois van Schouwenburg
4. Bakkies Botha
3. Danie Thiart
2. Kobus van der Walt
1. Jaco Engels

Subs

16. Chiliboy Ralepelle
17. Wessel Roux
18. Pedrie Wannenburg
19. Pierre Spies
20. Heinie Adams
21. Morne Steyn
22. Riaan van der Bergh