Can Stormers stop Bulls speedsters at Loftus Versfeld?

Stormers scrumhalf Paul de Wet’s service and box-kicks will be crucial in putting pressure on the Bulls backline on Saturday. Photo: PHANDO JIKELO Independent Newspapers

Stormers scrumhalf Paul de Wet’s service and box-kicks will be crucial in putting pressure on the Bulls backline on Saturday. Photo: PHANDO JIKELO Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 1, 2024


While the Stormers will look to their forwards to lay the foundation, the north-south derby against the Bulls will be the perfect time for their backline to step up their play.

They haven’t been hitting their straps as in previous seasons, but there have been glimpses of the exciting rugby they can play, and Loftus Versfeld will provide another opportunity tomorrow (5.05pm kick-off) to get their attack going.

Independent Newspapers looks at where the former United Rugby Championship winners can get the upper hand over the Bulls’ backline...

Kicking in the right areas

In a derby, territory is everything, and how the Stormers kickers attack the Bulls with the ball off the foot can provide them with some good field positions to strike from.

Whether from the flyhalf, scrumhalf, centre or fullback, the kicks will require pinpoint accuracy, and the Stormers are probably better off in terms of the variety of kickers they have at their disposal, with the likes of Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Warrick Gelant.

Box-kicks, pressure-relieving ones and touch kicks from penalties are vital to the Stormers’ cause and, of course, one or two kick-passes tomorrow might help put them on the front foot.

Fielding high kicks

This is one area the Cape side will want their men to be good in as they’ve run into a few troubles under the high ball earlier in the season. They’ve sharpened up quite a bit and will have to continue improving to keep the Bulls’ wings such as Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie from disrupting them when they are trying to catch kicks.

Clean catches out of the sky can lead to broken play and vital attacking chances that will likely be limited in the derby.

They will expect the bombs from the Bulls, and how the backline deals with them can go a long way in determining how their attack will function on the day.

Hot steppers and speedsters to the fore

Against the Sharks, the Stormers showed their ability to make something from nothing. That Paul de Wet try, created by a Warrick Gelant chip kick after he was given just a few seconds too long on the ball, is what the Cape side must produce more of tomorrow.

Looking at the Capetonians’ backline, they have the players all over the park to do that, and won’t have to rely on a few players like the case is with their opponents.

They’ll be happy to have flyhalf Libbok and utility player Willemse in the mix as well. They are the ones, alongside Gelant, with the magic feet and touches to get the rest of the hot steppers and speedsters away.

Limiting the errors

Yes, in a high-pressure game like this, the errors will be there, but the Stormers need to limit those mistakes that have cost them in a couple of matches this season.

They will seal the South African Shield if they are triumphant in Pretoria, but only a game where they eliminate the little issues and not give the Bulls much to feed off will help them win.

Even though there’s been plenty of reshuffling of the backline due to injuries and Springbok resting protocols, it’s deep into the season where the players should be in sync to not make those errors that can dent their momentum when on the attack.

Tackling opponents head-on

While it’s a collective effort on defence that will have to keep the Bulls out, the one-on-one defensive moments in the backline, especially against the wings of the Bulls, will go a long way in limiting the tries against them.

And if there is one thing the Stormers do not like, it’s conceding five-pointers, especially against their rival South African teams.

The Bulls have all the firepower in the backline, and guys like Arendse, Moodie, Willie le Roux and Embrose Papier will cause any team nightmares on the day if they are given a little bit of space to work their magic in. Stopping them on the spot will be crucial.