What must Glasgow Warriors do to overcome Bulls?

Bulls v Glasgow action shot
Bulls beat Glasgow 40-34 when the sides met in Pretoria in May [Getty Images]

United Rugby Championship final: Bulls v Glasgow Warriors

Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria Date: Sunday, 23 June Kick-off: 20:00 GMT

Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio Scotland, live text commentary on BBC Sport website.

Glasgow Warriors' route to the United Rugby Championship final has been one characterised by determination, heart and no lack of skill.

They have beaten Stormers - winners in 2022 - and then the 2023 champions, Munster, in the knockout stages, but their greatest test still lies ahead.

Bulls are the most physical of the South African club sides, a collective force of nature that will have both home conditions and home support for the showpiece event in Pretoria.

So how does Franco Smith's side take them down?

The first thing they have to do is end a dreadful recent record in South Africa. They have only ever triumphed twice there, both times against Cheetahs, the most recent of those being almost six years ago.

In their two games away to South African opposition in the current regular league season, they shipped 84 points in defeats by Bulls and Lions. They simply cannot afford to be that porous in defence again if they are to win a first title since 2015.

Their wonderful semi-final win over Munster was built on their defence as wave after wave of red attacks broke on the Glasgow line. They will need more of the same if they are to negate the wrecking-ball Bulls.

As former Scotland full-back Chris Paterson suggests: "What’s going to be the challenge is the physical onslaught the Bulls will throw at you.

"They play quickly with big, physical players. Glasgow need to force Bulls to play poorly and then strike."

Fraser Brown, the retiring Glasgow hooker who did not make the squad for South Africa, suggests that, if the Warriors can keep Bulls on their feet for long spells, especially at altitude, it will bring them into the contest.

"If Glasgow can make Bulls go through lots of phases, it will create more of a level playing field," he said.

Brown thought Warriors "showed how comfortable they are defending for multiple phases" against Munster and "will take confidence from that".

Can Glasgow beat 'flying' Bulls defence?

Another area where Glasgow stood strong against Munster was their set-piece - and they need to again on Saturday.

If Bulls are able to get front-foot ball there, Glasgow will find it incredibly difficult to wrestle back the momentum against a side who have won their last six games on the spin.

"Bulls were dominant at the scrum against Leinster, which is essentially the Ireland pack," Brown added.

"The Munster game was partly decided by how difficult Munster found it to win clean ball off their lineout.

"Glasgow managed to disrupt their ball and that will be a big part again this weekend. If they can, that will stop a bit of the momentum."

Then, when Glasgow are in possession, they will be put under pressure by a typical South African blitz defence.

Bulls will look to shut down Glasgow's options and force them to play narrow.

However, one feature of the Warriors' attack is the depth with which they play. If scrum-half George Horne can get quick ball, they still might be able to release their in-form back three.

Paterson also thinks Glasgow should look to their talented midfield to get over the gain-line, with Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones once again partnered in the centres.

"If Glasgow are able to break the line in midfield, they’ll get on the front foot," he said.

"If they can’t beat that flying defence, that’s where they’ll be under pressure."

Glasgow will take the field as underdogs in Pretoria, but they have shown time and time again this season that you cannot afford to write them off.

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