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UNITED RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP

Bulls primed to end losing streak against Stormers, but it’s not straightforward

Bulls primed to end losing streak against Stormers, but it’s not straightforward
Hacjivah Dayimani of Stormers during the United Rugby Championship quarterfinal match between DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls at DHL Stadium on 6 May 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images)

Despite the feel-good factor permeating the Mother City, the Bulls pose a huge threat to the Stormers in this pre-Christmas dust-up where thoughts of peace on Earth and kindness will be on hold for 80-odd minutes.

A few weeks ago, the Bulls would have been supremely confident of ending their six-match losing streak against the Stormers. Now, they’ll be less sure of victory when the sides meet in a United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. 

The Stormers’ last-gasp 21-20 win over European Champions La Rochelle in the Champions Cup last weekend has boosted their confidence. 

That came after a second-string Stormers side took Leicester to the wire at Welford Road a week earlier before losing 35-26. It was a game in which John Dobson’s men took away more positives than negatives. 

Wedged in between those matches was the news that the Red Disa consortium’s equity stake purchase of the Stormers had been cleared by the Competition Commission. 

It’s no surprise then that there is a real air of optimism at the Stormers despite a difficult start to the season that has resulted in four defeats in the opening seven rounds of the 2023/24 URC campaign. 

Despite the feel-good factor permeating the Mother City, the Bulls pose a huge threat in this pre-Christmas dust-up where thoughts of peace on Earth and kindness will be on hold for 80-odd minutes. 

sa teams urc jake white

Bulls head coach Jake White. (Photo: Tyler Miller / Gallo Images)

Form team 

The Bulls have been the form South African team in the URC and are third on the standings after five wins in their opening seven matches. On paper, this should be a game they start as favourites to win, despite being away from home. 

Jake White’s side are a more formidable unit than any time previously in the short history of the tournament. 

The back three of Willie le Roux, signed in the off-season, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse will make any defensive coach suffer some sleepless nights. 

The Bok trio has been spectacular, with inside backs such as flyhalf Johan Goosen and centre Stedman Gans providing quality momentum to allow them to shine. 

The acquisition of hooker Akker van der Merwe and former Stormers tighthead Wilco Louw has added not only power, experience and skill to two key positions, but valuable depth as well. 

And the emergence of some brilliant talent such as lock Janko Swanepoel and No 8 Cameron Hanekom is certainly reason to think that regardless of the outcome of this match, the Bulls are South Africa’s best hope of a URC title this season. 

They appear to have no weaknesses and White has silenced critics who claim his coaching style is conservative and risk-averse. The Bulls have been effective winners and wonderful, aesthetic entertainers in 2023. 

Manie Libbok of Stormers during the United Rugby Championship quarterfinal match between DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls at DHL Stadium on 6 May 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images)

Kurt-Joseph Dweba of Stormers during the United Rugby Championship quarterfinal match between DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls at DHL Stadium on 6 May 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images)

Leolin Zas of Stormers during the United Rugby Championship quarterfinal match between DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls at DHL Stadium on 6 May 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images)

Not straightforward 

Yet, it’s not as straightforward as pitching up at Green Point and coming away with a first URC win there. 

The Stormers are edging back to full strength with the return of key Boks including utility back Damian Willemse, flank Deon Fourie and flyhalf Manie Libbok. 

Tighthead Frans Malherbe is out with a back injury, but even so, the Stormers scrum has been solid. 

“Frans is on a bit more of a long-term programme to get back, so he’s not available,” Stormers assistant coach Dawie Snyman said. “I’m not sure exactly what date he’ll be available, but he’s in the facility at the moment doing his rehab and getting himself ready to play again. 

“It’s a previous injury that he’s had with us … he probably picked it up in the World Cup because after the World Cup he came back and saw a few specialists. But he’s actually up and running with us at the moment, so hopefully we can see him back on the field [soon].” 

English wing Ben Loader, who has been so impressive since joining the Stormers, will also miss the match due to a shoulder injury picked up against La Rochelle. 

“Unfortunately, Ben won’t be available for selection. He popped his AC joint which is unfortunate. I thought he had two great games [against Leicester and La Rochelle],” Snyman said. 

The Stormers were badly beaten at the breakdown against La Rochelle last week though and will need to sharpen up that area if they hope to stretch their URC winning sequence over the Bulls to seven. 

Bulls flank Marco van Staden has been exceptional this season and his battle with Fourie, who operated as hooker and flank in France with the Boks, will be key. DM 

Previous URC results 

6 May 2023: Stormers 33-21 Bulls (quarterfinal)
18 February 2023: Bulls 19-23 Stormers
23 December 2022: Stormers 37-27 Bulls
18 June 2022: Stormers 18-13 Bulls (Grand Final)
9 April 2022: Stormers 19-17 Bulls
22 January 2022: Bulls 26-30 Stormers

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