Stormers threaten Bulls’ slim playoff hopes

FILE PICTURE: Schalk Burger. Picture: Luke Walker/Gallo Images

FILE PICTURE: Schalk Burger. Picture: Luke Walker/Gallo Images

Despite a comprehensive defeat in their first encounter against the Bulls, the Stormers held all the aces for the return match at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.

The hosts have been playing with renewed vigour since their 28-12 loss in Pretoria early in May, having won three matches on the trot.

The Stormers’ resurgence poses a real risk to the Bulls’ diminishing hopes of reaching the Super Rugby playoffs.

Although their fate depended on results of teams ahead of them on the log over the final two league rounds of the competition, the Bulls still needed to take the full complement of points in the north-south derby.

“There is always a big battle when we play down there in the Cape. They are the two teams that get the best out of each other,” Ludeke said.

“They are always a good side — they are playing at home and there is a lot for them in the game as well.”

The Stormers had abandoned their outright defensive strategy by giving the ball more width which seemed to be paying off for the coastal side.

Ludeke anticipated a physical clash among the forwards and highlighted field positioning as the deciding element in the clash.

“We expect a massive set-piece battle and field position is vital in a game because from there you create opportunities,” he said.

“Broken field will be vital and we will have to be accurate at the breakdown and secure the ball.”

Stormers captain Schalk Burger said it was a clash of philosophies in one of the traditional rivalries in South African rugby.

“It is going to be an interesting match-up, but at the end of the day it is a derby. There’s going to be a lot of feeling and physicality, and hopefully our team can match up to theirs,” Burger said.

“The two sides have got different styles of play, and where we take a bit more chances and play with the ball a bit more, they are pretty structured.”

While the Stormers had missed the boat to the playoffs they could still improve their overall position on the Super Rugby log.

The Capetonians were five points adrift of the 10th-placed Bulls and a victory with the full five points could see them draw level with the visitors on 33 points.

Nevertheless, the Bulls would be determined to claim a thorough win over the Stormers to advance their chances of reaching the playoffs.

An exciting clash was expected as the Bulls chased the four-try bonus point and the Stormers would be looking to find the balance between a defensive and an expansive style.





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19 January 2019 TURFFONTEIN

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