A Bulls side boasting perhaps their most lethal offering of newly signed players since Jake White took over will be too strong and too good for a travelling Stormers side, as they look to book themselves a flight to Italy and entrance into the North v South Pro Rugby Rainbow Cup final come the 19th of June writes Oliver Keohane.
Jake White has been brilliant in building a squad balanced with youthful local talent, and invaluable experience. The squad he has picked for Friday evening finally showcases the Bulls’ finest mix. Gio Aplon, who has not played since being signed, due to injury, will make a much anticipated return from the bench. Marcel Coetzee, imported back from Ulster with a hunger to play for the Springboks again, will be making his Bulls debut in a back three complimented by Duane Vermeulen and the enormous Elrigh Louw. The Bulls pack have the power to match the Stormers, in what is there primary strength, and I believe that the Bulls will have a breakdown advantage too given the type of loose-forwards they have at their disposal in comparison to the Stormers.
The backline, however, is where the Bulls have the undeniable advantage. Ivan Van Zyl returns from injury to partner veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn. It is in this halfback axis, given that their forwards provide the platform, that the game will be won. Herschel Jantjies is a brilliant individual, but the Stormers simply do not have a ten. Abner Van Reenen has been terrible and Tim Swiel, who will start this weekend has looked as clueless. I think to break down what will once again be an incredibly brutal and tight contest, the Stormers’ best bet at winning is to throw Damian Willemse in at ten and hope that he fires. Though his form has been neither here nor there, and he has suffered the positional indecisiveness of the coaching set-up, his raw capabilities to break open a game have never been in question.
But Willemse won’t start at ten, and what will happen is the Stormers backline will go left, right and ultimately back, as the Bulls will pin them down with a territory game and consistent kick and chases. The Stormers will play most of the rugby, have most of the ball, but the Bulls will win.
I said it when I previously wrote on the two sides, but the Bulls are simply better at doing what the Stormers try and fail to do for a full 80 minutes at a time; Build on physical dominance with clinical kicking and backline play. When I say the Bulls will ‘bash’ the Stormers, I’m not necessarily saying the scoreline will be obtuse. What I’m saying is that the Bulls will not allow the Stormers the breathing room for error, nor will they easily be put in a position to lose. I’m saying the Bulls by six points plus, bearing in mind the added incentive of a nice trip to Treviso if they come away with a win.
WATCH: Highlights from the first encounter