Presently, there is little to choose between these traditional ‘North-South’ rivals and neither can lay claim to a favourites tag in this Super Rugby derby clash which will have a decided bearing on the South African Conference standings. Hence, the unprecedented levels of interest for the match.
The Stormers have often said they draw huge inspiration from the Newlands crowd but in recent years the Sharks and the Bulls, as the away teams, have been buoyed by the increasing support in the Mother City. It has become a regular Newlands side-show these days for visiting teams step off the bus outside the stadium to raucous applause.
That might be a pointer to the huge demand for the tickets and on Friday morning, there were mostly standing room tickets available.
Earlier this week, Stormers flank Schalk Burger alluded to why the match was special.
“This is the one - the big North-South derby we all grew up watching. It’s always such a tough day at the office,” said Burger.
Comparatively, the Bulls will have a vastly experienced side – their run-on XV includes 12 Springboks – and that might be a bonus in a match that Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said will have a Test Match intensity about it.
The one thing that the Stormers have opted to do differently on Saturday is to play more towards the ball since the Bulls are Super Rugby’s leading team in the ‘Turnovers Won’ statistic column. The Stormers won against the Force last week despite losing the turn-over count, but it can backfire against the Bulls, who have a champion ball scavenger in flank Deon Stegmann. Last week he won four of the Bulls’ 13 turn-overs against the Sharks.
The Stormers have given Burger the job of policing the breakdowns and he agreed it will be an important role in the side’s gameplan. He conceded that last week that the Stormers did not play to the ball enough.
“Last week our weakness was that we didn’t play cohesively towards the ball as a unit. So it’s not only on me to get the job done, but on the pack as a whole,” said Burger.
“We have to be nice and direct.”
Since his return after a long-term health enforced absence from the game, Burger has varied his game somewhat. Nowadays, his performance is a mixture of barnstorming runs and a linking role via flashy passes and off-loads in the tackle.
Burger felt he was ready to make the adjustment to his game.
“It’s not such as big mind-shift for me because in broken play I’ll still be able to be a part of the game,” said Burger.
“From structured play where their defence is good, I’ll have to play towards the ball a little more.
“It will be a big challenge, not only against a good Bulls pack, but a very good Bulls team.
“Deon has been very effective on the ground – he always has, and he has been playing well.
“When he plays their loose trio has balance, which makes them more effective and a massive asset for them.
“If we can keep him quiet that will improve our chances.”
In the Bulls camp, coach Frans Ludeke and captain Pierre Spies have both pointed to matching the Stormers’ set-piece ability.
“They outplayed us in the opening round, mainly because our set-pieces were not as good,” said Spies.
“We have worked pretty hard since then and I honestly think our pack can now be measured against the best ones out there, especially since we have the likes of Flip van der Merwe and Arno Botha back to full fitness.
“We’re going to Newlands to play good rugby and to get a good result. There is a lot at stake.”
Ludeke said his team had been consistently improving and in particular at set-pieces.
“We have improved in a lot of areas in our own game. We definitely now have a more all-round game. That is what we will need to play away and be successful,” said Ludeke.
“We know what to expect, it will be up front, the quality base and delivery.
“They are still very competitive at the scrum. Again, it will be a very vital battle and we need to do well there.
“It does not come bigger than facing the Stormers in Cape Town.” – ANA
Original source: Schalk hoping to feast on turnovers