The Waratahs are preparing to face arguably the most potent rolling maul in Super Rugby when the Bulls visit Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
While the Highlanders showed last Saturday that such a brutally physical form of attack can be countered with their 27-20 win over the Bulls in Dunedin, it was clear that such a feat requires a committed defence.
The Waratahs believe the Bulls will also back their lineout, ensuring the NSW forwards will be in for a tough night in their first home game since they fell to the Sharks (32-10) and beat the Stormers (22-11) in South Africa and lost to the Force (28-16) in Perth.
There is certainly no complacency among the Waratahs, even though the Bulls have lost their last two games in New Zealand, against the Hurricanes (25-20) and the Highlanders.
The Waratahs have fallen to third place on the Australian conference ladder after their defeat by the Force last Saturday and have not beaten the Bulls in their eight previous meetings since 2006.
“The Bulls are a proposition not too dissimilar to the Force – a South African-based style side – who are going to threaten us at the lineout,” Waratahs assistant coach Nathan Grey said.
“They are going to challenge us with their driving maul. They are very open about that.”
The Waratahs are confident in their attack, having averaged 129.3 carries per game – the most of any side – and the third best of 490.3 total metres.
The Bulls have the second worst average of 91.1 carries per game and the lowest of 298.8 metres, but Grey is still wary of the threat they pose.
When asked to nominate the chief threats in the Bulls side, Grey identified Bulls centres Jan Serfontein and J.J Engelbrecht, and both of their half-back options – Francois Hougaard who replaced the injured Akona Ndungane on the wing last week, and Piet van Zyl.
“They are two guys who are very handy, probably haven’t been given that many opportunities this year; but they are class players," Grey said of Serfontein and Engelbrecht.
“And whoever they have playing at 9, whether it’s van Zyl or Hougaard, [they are] guys who can capitalise on a good pack going forward.”
Grey has no doubt the Waratahs face a tough challenge against the Bulls. “We are going to have our work cut out for us,” he said.
“But we are confident that if we stick to how we want to play, and how we want to pressure them, then everything [will be in] our hands."
Waratahs prop Sekope Kepu believes the NSW pack has improved its set piece in recent weeks. But he knows that after the Force exposed them in that area last week, the Bulls will consider NSW's scrum and lineout as vulnerable.
The Bulls scrum has a higher success rate than the Waratahs' with a 12th best of 81.67 per cent compared to the 14th pegged 80.00 per cent of NSW.
But the Bulls lineout has been far more successful with a second most successful rate of 93.28 per cent against the ninth best of 84.52 per cent by the Waratahs.
"That is something we will be tested [on] this week. They are one of the best lineouts in the competition,” Kepu said.
"There were still moments in [set piece last week] where we were soft and where we let the Force get back into the game.
“If we can cut out these moments and build consistency which is what we are after – if we can do that for 99 per cent of the game – then we will be happy.”