JOHN Kear has tipped Sheffield Eagles to be a play-off rival as the Bulls put their perfect start on the line in South Yorkshire tonight.

The hosts have also won two out of two in the Championship after bolstering their squad during the off-season.

And Kear believes the quality additions will ensure Mark Aston’s side are a powerful competitor this season.

He said: “The new half-back pairing of Patch Walker, the former Sheffield player from Batley, and Anthony Thackeray, from Featherstone, has really given them some direction.

“They’ve always had a big, tough forward pack, which they retained, and they’ve obviously got some quality in the back three in (Ben) Blackmore, (Ryan) Millar and (Josh) Guzdek.

“Mark has made a number of off-season signings and they’ve been very good ones. I think they’ve been one of the best recruiters in the Championship.”

Sheffield, who are now in their second season back in the steel city, hammered Swinton on opening day before edging a 24-22 thriller over Barrow in Cumbria.

“They’ve had a tough couple of years but they’ve ridden it through and I think this season is going to be a very good one for them,” added the Bulls coach.

“There’s no doubt in my mind they will be up there challenging for play-off places.

“Look at the manner of the first-round victory and then going up to Barrow, which is a really difficult place on a heavy pitch, and coming away with the win.

“The significant step forward for Mark is the quality of recruits they have made and how well they seem to have gelled so quickly.”

RECAP: Bradford Bulls new recruit Olsi Krasniqi could debut in Sheffield

The Bulls will hand a debut to loan signing Olsi Krasniqi and Jon Magrin is also set to make his second debut for the club after spending last year with Sheffield.

Kear has picked a side with the artificial surface in mind but he is confident Toronto forward Krasniqi will hit the ground running.

He added: “He’s very athletic and he’s got a very good carry on him. He can also hit in defence – that’s the job description of a middle man.

“I’m just hoping he makes a good impression with the fans. We’re three down in that department at the moment with (Ross) Peltier, (Olly) Wilson and (Callum) Bustin missing.

“But we have depth to start with and it will be interesting to see how he comes through it. I’m certain he will do well.

“He’s Championship and Super League ready. He’s played a lot of Super League games and he’s the type of player with experience where we want it.”

The Bulls would go top with a third victory – if only for 48 hours. But Kear insists there is plenty of room for improvement in their game.

“We’re not the finished product by any means. We know full well we’ve got further work to do to achieve our potential.

“The best way to judge that is by week-to-week measurement and the next challenge is a very good Sheffield side.

“I’m looking forward to a tough old game. The rewards are very high, even though it’s so early in the season.”