Preview: Bulls v Stormers

Date published: February 13 2015

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Two of the heavyweights of the South African game go head-to-head in what should be a thrilling clash in Pretoria on Saturday.

North v South derbies are usually brutal and physical affairs filled with plenty of excitement and drama and this weekend's instalment between the Bulls and Stormers should be no different.

With home ground advantage and 12 Springboks in their run-on side – as well as Bok number eight Pierre Spies on the bench – the Bulls are favourites to win although their captain Victor Matfield is not underestimating the Stormers.

The Bulls impressed in their pre-season friendlies beating the Cheetahs and Saracens although the latter result was against a second-string Premiership side.

Matfield believes the Stormers would be the perfect team to gauge where they were at the start of the season.

"They are dangerous off turnover ball, so hopefully we won't give them too much of that and we can hold onto the ball," he said.

"Especially with our defence we hope to force some turnovers and that is usually where the tries lie."

By comparison, the Stormers only have three Boks in their starting line-up in new skipper Duane Vermeulen and midfield duo Juan de Jongh and Damian de Allende while another Test player, Nizaam Carr, is amongst the replacements.

Despite their inexperience, the men from the Cape are confident of starting their campaign on a positive note.

Vermeulen said they were going to Loftus with the intention of playing winning rugby and hinted at the approach his team would use to achieve that goal.

"I've heard all the talk about the teams planning to play expansive rugby but we want to play winning rugby, even if it means resorting to a kicking game," he explained.

"We want to win to give ourselves a chance for a shot at winning the Super Rugby title."

The last time these teams met: The Stormers ended the Bulls' hopes of reaching the play-offs when they secured a 16-0 victory at Newlands in Cape Town last year. The Bulls needed to win and secure a try-scoring bonus-point but were kept scoreless by the Cape Town-based franchise who scored a solitary try via Jaco Taute.

Players to watch: For the Bulls, their Springbok fly-half Handré Pollard will want to hit the ground running after several impressive displays for the Pretoria-based franchise and his country in 2014. Pollard will be expected to put his team on the front foot with his fine tactical kicking but he is also unpredictable with ball in hand which makes him equally dangerous on attack. Veteran lock Victor Matfield is regarded by many as the game's best-ever line-out exponent and should be dominant at the set piece against the Stormers' inexperienced lock pairing of Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn. After a stellar 2014 season which finished on a high at SA Rugby awards – where he won all the top prizes – new Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen is leading a relatively inexperienced side which puts extra pressure on his broad shoulders. Amongst the visitors' backs, young full-back Cheslin Kolbe is an exciting prospect, who can change the course of a game with a moment of brilliance but he is small in stature and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the Bulls' physicality.

Team news: The Bulls have a strong look to their starting XV with Bok hooker Adriaan Strauss returning to the franchise after several seasons with the Cheetahs. He is joined by prop Trevor Nyakane and flanker Lappies Labuschagne who are playing their first games for their new franchise since moving from the Bloemfontein-based outfit. The Stormers have six debutants in their matchday squad with three in the starting XV and three on the bench. Both wings Johnny Kotze and Dillyn Leyds – who has previous experience in the tournament with the Western Force – and tighthead prop Vincent Koch are the newbies in the stasrting line-up while back-up centre Huw Jones and replacement props Oli Kebble and Wilco Louw are set to make their debuts from the bench.

Prediction: The hosts should have to much firepower for their visitors who are without several first-choice players. Bulls to win by eight points.

Previous results:

2014: Stormers won 16-0 in Cape Town
2014: Bulls won 28-12 in Pretoria
2013: Stormers won 30-13 in Cape Town
2013: Bulls won 25-17 in Pretoria
2012: Stormers won 19-14 in Pretoria

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Piet Van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Jacques Du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellet, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen/Neethling Fouche, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Pierre Spies, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 Jesse Kriel.

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom,8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

Date: Saturday, February 14
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO: Johan Greeff

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