March 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
Never in a million years will I openly back the Stormers when they are playing the Bulls, but I’m gratefull Saturday’s match wasn’t played in week one because I wouldn’t been as confident as I am now.
Rugby in South Africa doesn’t get bigger than when these two titans clash. Wether it’s in the Currie Cup or Super Rugby, the Bulls vs WP/Stormers always is a major fixture and something that players from both sides lift their games for. A bit of topic now, but given the fact that this fixture always brings out the best out of the players involved, I feel that the team coming into this match with a player not part of this culture is at a dissadvantage. The whole Provence team played out of their skins in the 2009 CC Semi expect for Sireli Nakanavuki. And he cost them that match. The WPRU will have to think hard if they really want to try and win over the Cape Crusader fans by signing Sonny Bill, just to loose them again when he inevitably leaves to join the Ultimate Fighting Championship or WWE Raw. Or rugby league.
Back to Saturday. The Stormers have played a trump card by bolstering their already physical pack with Elstadt slotting in at flank in place of the new kid on Supersport blog, Nick Koster. The Bulls have opted for the same pack that demolished the Reds with Deon Stegman still sidelined due to injury. Stegman’s absence means both teams take the field without a fetcher. What many people seem to forget though, is that Chilliboy Ralapele regularly performs the role of a second fetcher, very much like Bismark du Plessis, and that he is much better equipped to perform this role than Tiaan Liebenberg. Expect him to poach one ore two loose balls from the Stormers on Saturday.
There is not much the Bulls could have adden to their team to counter the Stormers’ increased physicallity, but for starters the Bulls were not that far behind the Stormers if they were at all. Although both of them were guilty of silly transgressions and going over the top a bit, both Flip van der Merwe and Jaques Potgieter have been very good at the rough stuff and together with Dean Greyling they will keep the Stormers honest.
I can’t see any team really gaining an advantage at the breakdowns but maybe Chilliboy can steal one or two Stormers balls.
One of the biggest battles will be faught in the lineouts. I said in a post earlier the Andries Bekker must step up if he has any hopes of being seen as Matfield’s successor. If he is outplayed by any of the four relative rookies on Saturday he will have a hard time claiming the Bok number 5 jersey. But for both teams’s lineout options doesn’t stop at number five though. Elstadt’s inclusion together with Estebeth greatly increases the Stormers’ options in this area. Ruan Vermeulen can also catch a few throwins at the back.
Juandre Kruger has been quite a revelation for the Bulls at the lineouts and do not forget Matfield’s input as a consultant. Flip van der Merwe more than holds his own in this department and Pierre Spies is a viable option at the back. While the Stormers have a bit of an endge regarding their jumpers, Ralapele makes up for this with his accurate throwins this season.
While both teams have done reasonably well in the scrums, the Bulls were penalised a lot this season in this particular setpiece. A lot will depend on how Craig Joubert interprets the scrum situation and if the Bulls can get a good shuff on you can expect Hougard to be all over Duvenage like a rash. I cant see many tightheads being claimed by any of the teams though.
All in all, the Stormers looks to be the better team in the tight exchanges, but not enough to expect the Bulls to shy away from these situations. The Stormers will have their hands full stopping an inform Pierre Spies and if he, Jaques Potgieter and CJ Stander can regularly cross the advantage line in in the area just more than five metres away from the advantage line, players the Stormers will have a hard time forcing themselves on the Bulls. As long as the Bulls refrain from just bashing into the Stormers close to the breakdown, the Stormers’ heavies can be taken out of the equasion. Of both teams it is the Stormers who leats can afford not playing close to the breakdown areas.
The Stormers’ biggest weakness however is at halfback. Both Duvenhage and Grant are very talented players, but both are very limited in helping their team play in the right areas on the field. While Duvenhage posesses a decent kicking boot he will rely heavilly on his forwards to gain momentum and keep Hougard out of his hair. Grant is not nearly as good as Steyn in the kicking department and the Stormers’ physical pack will count for nothing if their half backs cant get them playing in the right areas. Not to mention Steyn’s abbillity to slot any kick within 50 metres from goal.
The battle at midfield will be an interesting one. Sadie will be playing his third match for the Bulls and will want to impress againts his old teammates. Olivier is on fire at the moment and he will definitively test the Stormers’ defence. De Villiers and De Jong are growing as a combination and, although the Stormers haven’t score many tries so far, the Bulls will have their hands full. The Bulls might be in danger of Sadie’s inexperience being exposed, but other than that I cant see this battle being won or lost without any help from the big guys in the pack.
The Bulls’ chasing has been a revelation. Bijorn Basson leads the charge and he is the top try scorer in the tournament so far. Together with Ndungane, who has rediscovered his form that made his such a formidable provincial player, they can really test the Stormers’ defence. Bryan Habana seems to be on an upward curve and also chases the high balls really wel. Geo Aplon will provide some spark and might score a try from nowhere.
At the back we’ll see two fullbacks who are both solid yet not very exciting thus far. Zane Kirschner have done really well when joining the line and he is a solid catcher under the high ball. Joe Peterson is capable of creating a few oppertunities, but hasn’t really showed this sonce his return to the Cape. He might have the added responsabillity of having to kick at goal as well.
This match really is well balanced. Both teams have a very physical pack of forwards with the Stormers adding extra bulk in the form Elstadt at number seven. Although Vermeulen and Kolisi have shown good mobility this season, Pierre Spies really turned on his form when it was needed the most and Stander slotted perfectly in at number six. The forward battle might go down to who can get the most momentum. If the ball stays close to the breakdown, the Stormers’ added bulk will grind the game away from the Bulls. If the Bulls manages to take it to the area between the breakdown and the flyhalf channel they might gain momentum through some powerfull runs by Spies and Potgieter with Chilliboy securing the loose balls.
However, even if the Stormers win the forward battle, they will have to win it by quite a margin if they want to take the Bulls’ halbacks out of the equation. Steyn will happily try and keep the Bulls out of their own 22 and if can get some distance on his kicks Grant will have a hard time. Duvenhage will rely heavily on his forwards to aid him in keepinh Hougard out of his hair. Hougard can also be dangerous if the Bulls’ loose forwards regularly cross the advantage line and he manages to make his sniping runs of these moves.
At the back Habana and Aplon will have their hands full fielding high bombs from Steyn and fending off Basson and Kirchner. However, the outside backs of both teams are very equally matched and whoever benifits from momentum gained from his forwards will have the best oppertunities to score tries.
On an individual basis the Stormers will look to Estebeth to stay in the Bulls’ faces and frustrate them enough to concede a penalty or two. They’ll also hope for a spark of brilliance from Geo Aplon to create something out of nothing.
The Bulls will rely on Jaques Potgieter to keep Estebeth at bay and make a few powerfull runs of his own. At the back we can expect Francois Hougard to make a few sniping runs round the rucks and later move to wing and create some magic.
Both teams will also rely heavily on their captains to lead by example. Both Spies and De Villiers have redicovered the form they lost during last year and both have been sensible when tasked with decision making.
The winner? It’s Newlands, the Stormers are very good defenders and their pack can bully the crap out of anybody, but the Bulls can standup to these bullies and they do have an edge with strong runners like Spies and Potgieter. From there Steyn and Hougard will control procedings and unleash the likes of Basson and Kirshner. Expect Olivier make a few powerfull runs between De Villiers and De Jong.
If the Bulls can get lead of more than seven points, the pressure will be on the Stormers to score tries. How they handle it will determine if they’ll win this one or loose.
My heart says the Bulls by sixty. My brain says the Bulls by three.