Northampton Saints v Vodacom Bulls: Big match preview

Saints boss Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Saints boss Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Saints boss Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Fixture: Northampton Saints v Vodacom Bulls

Competition: Investec Champions Cup (quarter-final)

Venue: cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, April 13, 2024, 8pm

Weather forecast: 14c, mostly cloudy

Live television coverage: TNT Sports

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)

Assistant referees: Luc Ramos and Ludovic Cayre (both Fra)

TMO: Thomas Charabas (Fra)

Saints: Ramm; Hendy, Freeman, Dingwall, Sleightholme; F Smith, Mitchell; Iyogun, Langdon, Davison; Moon, Coles; Lawes (c), Graham, Augustus.Replacements: S Matavesi, A Waller, Hill, Scott-Young, Ludlam, James, Furbank.

Vodacom Bulls: Williams; de Klerk, Immelman, Vorster, Jacobs; Smith, Burger; Matanzima, van der Merwe, M Smith; Swanepoel, van Heerden; Carr (c), Gumede, Hanekom.

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Replacements: Wessels, D Smith, Klopper, Olivier, Ludwig, Johannes, van der Walt, Hendricks.

Not considered for Saints selection: Callum Braley, Burger Odendaal, Tom Pearson.

Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson: "They have a very, very rich history as a club. I went to spend a week with John Mitchell when he was there (in Pretoria) and rugby's religion out there. They're a group who have huge heritage and are keen to establish themselves in that same vein. They've produced a tonne of incredible players in the past and they will no doubt continue to do that. They've got their own style and you can watch three or four games and get the idea (of what they will be like). We'll always look for advice and try to find ways to be better but the game doesn't lie so you can watch a few games and see what a good outfit they are. From our own point of view, it's the same stuff as always but the threats Bulls bring to the table is a very powerful forward pack, their maul game is incredibly strong, they create loads of opportunities from scrum and maul in terms of penalties and chances to play. They've got powerful centres, a fast back three and there's the usual litany of quality across the pitch but the level of physicality, which is synonymous with South African rugby, is really standout. They chase after box kicks and create chaos in that space to get the ball back and get field position for their back three to be very, very threatening.”

Opposition dangerman: Sebastian de Klerk is one of the two players who started against Lyon to keep his place this week, and the wing will be on a high as he looks to cause problems for Saints.

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Tom Vickers’ prediction: Don’t be fooled by the fact the Bulls have sent what many are calling a ‘B team’, they will still be strong as they have such a deep squad and this looks set to be a tough task. Both sides love to play a bit so there could be a few points here. Saints 32-27 Bulls.

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