A brave new world for Bulls

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For the hosts, the feeling of newness may come in the form of their head coach Robbie Fleck who has taken over the reins from Allister Coetzee and the addition of Springbok utility forward Pieter-Steph du Toit but everything else about the Capetonians will be the same.

The familiarity of things might work in their favour as the Stormers look to live up to the pre-season predictions that they will be one of the South African teams going through to the play-offs.

However, it could be that very same familiarity that could once again prove to be their Achilles Heel as they fight their inner demons of getting over the advantage line and getting their hands on that coveted Super Rugby trophy.

The Stormers will be fully aware that their season won’t be an easy one especially when considering they will have to contend with playing their old foe twice in their pool. They will also face tricky double headers against the Cheetahs and Japan’s Sunwolves.

So, it will be important that they put down a marker in Saturday’s game, not only to strike a psychological blow and instil fear in the rest of the teams in the South African conference, but to also give themselves the belief that this could very well be their time.

For the Bulls, it is time for them to do their talking on the field as they have spent the better part of the pre-season waxing lyrically about their belief and the abilities of their inexperienced youngsters.

Those youngsters will Saturday afternoon run on to a cauldron that could very much determine how the rest of their fledgling careers go - up into stardom or down into obscurity.

Bulls coach Nollis Marais is a strong believer that stardom and higher honours await his youngsters but how they fare against an older, wiser and more experienced enemy could set the tone for the rest of their campaign. “I think we were underdogs when the year started. I’ve read all the newspaper clippings and what people say,” said Marais. “At the end of the day it is an away game it is always a 50-50.

“The pressure is not on us, it is on the Stormers. It is going to be a massive thing for them playing their first game at home.

“For us, we’ve got youngsters and they don’t fear a lot of things. It’s going to be a tough game and we have been underdogs from the beginning. We knew that (would be the case) with a lot of players leaving last year and we having to bring a lot of youngsters through.

“A lot of teams can surprise you on the day, let’s see what happens (Saturday) at 5pm,” Marais concluded.

Saturday’s match is a game that still has all the ingredients for an epic battle and will see the victors take their first giant leap into new and uncharted territory in the competition.

Teams:

Bulls starting XV: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Francois Brumm er, Rudy Paige, Arno Botha, Jannes Kirsten, Nic de Jager, Grant Hattingh, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Trevor Nyakane.

Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka, Hencus van Wyk, Jason Jenkins, Roelof Smit, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Burger Odendaal.

Stormers starting XV: Cheslin Kolbe, Kobus van Wyk, Johnny Kotze, Juan de Jongh (co-captain), Dillyn Leyds, Robert du Preez, Jano Vermaak, Nizaam Carr, Schalk Burger, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Oli Kebble;

Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, JC Janse van Rensburg, Frans Malherbe (co-captain), JD Schickerling, Siya Kolisi, Nic Groom, Kurt Coleman, Leolin Zas.

Referee: Craig Joubert

Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Cwengile Jadezweni

TMO: Christie du Preez

Venue: Newlands, Cape Town

Kick-off: 5.05pm

TV: SS1

The Star

Original source: A brave new world for Bulls

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