Planet Rugby

Preview: Bulls v Stormers

09th May 2014 09:53

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Schalk Burger Stormers 2014

Evergreen: Schalk Burger

It will be a battle between two broken sides when the Bulls host the Stormers in Pretoria on Saturday.

This season injury lay-offs have forced the two proud South African sides into a situation where they had no other option but to introduce players, who have yet to make their mark on the domestic circuit, into top flight rugby.

In both instances the setbacks suffered have been in key positions although the Bulls have looked far better equipped to deal with those losses.

For this contest the Stormers will field three players who have never competed at Super Rugby level while Cheslin Kolbe's only experience at this level was last week when he came on off the bench against the Highlanders in Cape.

This week the former Springbok Sevens wunderkind finds himself in the number 11 jersey in a side where six changes were made to the starting line-up.

In contrast, the Bulls only had to tweak their team that was successful against the Cheetahs last week.

The only change sees centre JJ Engelbrecht swapping places with William Small-Smith who now finds himself on the bench.

The Bulls have yet to lose a match at their Loftus home and another victory will take them a step closer to qualifying for the play-offs.

In their previous outing Frans Ludeke's men were far more effective at the breakdown where they still lack a specialist fetcher, while a drastic improvement in scrum-half Francois Hougaard's kicking game ensured that they were able to sustain pressure and exit their half with greater success.

The Bulls are likely to stick to their territory orientated game plan, but will be wise not to kick too many high balls on Kolbe who showed in the domestic season last year that he only needs a half-gap to power past some of the best defenders in the modern game.

The Stormers would also have noticed that the Bulls driving maul has again become one of their key strengths and that failure to front up in that facet of play will seriously dent their chances of returning to Cape Town with the win.

For Bulls captain Victor Matfield, this week is all about building on what they accomplished the week before.

"We kept our composure and stuck to our structures, something we will need to do again against the Stormers," said Matfield.

"They have shown some decent form in the last couple of weeks and are playing without fear, which makes them dangerous opponents."

Having achieved a stunning 50 percent win ratio over the Bulls at their fortress the Stormers should know that controlling the tempo of the match is the second step towards victory.

The first step will always be to dominate the contact situation against a side known for its physicality and this is where the role of the evergreen Schalk Burger becomes so important.

Burger will captain the side for the first time in more than two years although it is unlikely that he will complete the full 80 minutes.

This is mainly because the replacement flankers in the Stormers side have a huge task on their hands.

In the second half the role of hitting rucks at pace should go to Siya Kolisi, while the team's real dangerman - Deon Fourie - could come-on to try and steel possession at a time where one penalty could be decisive.

Still, the Bulls should be favourites although stranger things have happened when the North and South collide in what used to be the biggest South African derby.

Form: The Bulls recorded their first win in five attempts last week when they beat the Cheetahs last week and have shown improvement with each match. While starting the season poorly, the Stormers have blown hot and cold in recent weeks and like their opponents, they have managed to pick up a four-try bonus point.

Prediction: Although both sides feature some very inexperienced players, there has been more continuity in the Bulls selections which should result in a victory by 8 points.

The teams:

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Wimpie van der Walt, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 William Small-Smith

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Peter Grant,11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger (captain), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Deon Fourie, 21 Dylon Frylinck, 22 Michael van der Spuy, 23 Devon Williams

Date: Saturday 10 May
Venue: Loftus Versfeld
Kick Off local: 19:10 local (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert South Africa
Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Jaco van Heerden (both South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff

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