Down the line … Waratahs star Berrick Barnes looks to pass at the club's captain's run yesterday. They take on South African conference leaders the Bulls at Allianz Stadium tonight. Photo: Steve Christo

THE Waratahs are preparing for a bruising battle that will be as tactical as it is physical against the Bulls tonight - and a warning to Sydney fans: there will be kicking.

After a Brumbies match comparatively devoid of contestable kicking, coach Michael Foley has instructed his players to take the attacking opportunities that are on offer, but not to be afraid to put boot to ball against one of the competition's most prolific and accurate kicking sides.

''You've got to be very careful when you start talking about how much you want to kick,'' he said at the Waratahs' captain's run yesterday.

''Out of last weekend, there was certainly some knee-jerk reaction out of some quarters that we didn't kick enough, which was quite ironic, but the reality for us last week was that we felt if we could control the ball for enough period of time, that we could break down the defence - and we just didn't finish those chances off.

''The Bulls are a different outfit. We definitely will look to control the ball for long periods, but I think we also need to know that when the Bulls put a good, hard kick-chase through, if they isolate our guys, we need to feel that we can, firstly, get numbers back and then give our game callers the confidence to make decisions that we'll support.''

In preparation for their high-pressure clash with the South African conference leaders, whose five-eighth, Morne Steyn, is one of the season's top point scorers and most frequent kickers, the Waratahs spent a lot of time yesterday under the high ball, chipping and chasing and kicking from the restart.

Foley said the Bulls had been very successful using kicking to attack. ''A lot of the sides that are at the top of the competition are kicking the ball a lot,'' he said. ''The Bulls, Stormers and Crusaders are three sides [who], when you look at the stats, are kicking the ball a lot more than other teams.''

Couple the skill of Steyn with the side's aggression up front, and the Waratahs will be tested in every possible way.

''The Bulls have an extremely good maul, where they gain momentum from that and they use their kicking game as well,'' Foley said. ''When they get down your end they play with a lot of width but, up until that point, they work you hard with their forwards and they have a very, very good contestable kicking game.''

Captain Rocky Elsom, who will make his first run-on start of the season tonight, said the forwards had also spent extra time on the set-piece, accommodating the elevation of John Ulugia to the starting No.2 position in Tatafu Polota-Nau's absence.

Elsom said the team knew they needed to be patient and not let hard gains go to waste.

''It's stringing the phases together when we get through the line, that's a big thing for us,'' he said.

''Patience is a very broad term but that's something that we definitely needed against the Brumbies. I think that the guys were too eager to score straight away and that cost us because we turned over the pill at crucial times.''

Tonight will also be a big test for the new backs combination, which pairs Adam Ashley-Cooper with Rob Horne in the centres, and Berrick Barnes and Sarel Pretorius in the halves. Foley said Daniel Halangahu would provide experience at fullback and more support for playmaker Barnes in attack.

The squad also received a boost yesterday with news that Test winger Drew Mitchell was a ''good chance'' of making the touring side when it leaves for South Africa tomorrow. He faces his final fitness test today.

''That's a plus for us,'' Foley said. ''It's important what we do this weekend, it's so important, but to have guys like Drew … to be coming back on to the field is pretty exciting.''