The scrums and the error-rate are the two main areas the Bulls will be looking to get right this week ahead of the crunch derby against the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld that opens their Super Rugby campaign on Saturday.
The scrums are obviously a key area of strength for the Stormers as they enjoy the services of three Springbok props in Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Wilco Louw, as well as a hooker with 26 Test caps in Bongi Mbonambi and a back-up No 2 who has toured with the national team in Scarra Ntubeni.
The Bulls will be taking on the Stormers up front with a Test tighthead in Trevor Nyakane, fellow international Schalk Brits at hooker and Springbok tourist Lizo Gqoboka at loosehead. Both front rows will have Springbok locks flexing their muscles behind them.
The vastly experienced Brits has a bit of a calf niggle, but was walking freely after their weekend warm-up match against the Sharks in Ballito, while the Stormers are sweating over Kitshoff’s hamstring strain.
“One day we’re up and one day we’re down. It seems to be the way it goes with our scrums, and the Stormers have a strong pack, but I can’t wait to see who wins that battle. I feel comfortable alongside Schalk and Lizo, they both have a lot of experience, but you have to be up for the battle each week.
“I don’t know if the Stormers will be targeting the scrums. I can’t think for them, but whatever they bring, we have to match it. But the scrum is an eight-man battle, so the personal battles don’t matter. Consistency is the key for everyone in Super Rugby if you want to win, it’s about how well we work as a unit and we must stop having ups and downs,” Nyakane said yesterday.
A 7-7 draw against the Sharks in Ballito in their final warm-up suggests there was not much to comment about in terms of the Bulls’ play, but the same handling errors that bedevilled their Superhero Sunday game against the Stormers in Cape Town a fortnight ago were once again to the fore.
Humid conditions obviously made the ball slippery, but the Bulls seem to be playing good rugby but then undoing all their hard work with basic errors.
“Mistakes cost us, but they are things we can work on and sort out. But against a side like the Stormers, they will punish you if you make mistakes. We have to keep ball-in-hand and ensure we have continuity. Otherwise we went alright against them.
“But this weekend they will obviously be at full strength, so it’s going to be a challenge. We don’t need any extra motivation for this derby and if you’re not ready on Saturday then you shouldn’t be in professional rugby. Hopefully the crowd will also be our 16th man,” Nyakane said.