North-south derby like a final for Stormers
The Bulls have won three Super Rugby titles to the Stormers’ zero‚ but this Saturday’s clash between the old foes at Newlands will feel like a final for the Cape side.
Losing to the Brumbies at home last week has left the Stormers’ playoff ambitions on a precipice‚ especially as they face a daunting task in Buenos Aires against the Jaguares after this.
Lose against the Bulls at Newlands and their season is just about over considering they have already lost five of nine games.
The Bulls are top of the SA Conference but are only four points clear of the bottom-placed Stormers. A win for the Bulls would open a huge gap from first to last in the conference.
Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has bolstered his pack with the return of JD Schickerling at lock and Siya Kolisi at flank. Tighthead Frans Malherbe also returns while lock Eben Etzebeth is on the bench.
Jean-Luc du Plessis is back at flyhalf with Damian de Allende and JJ Engelbrecht forming a new centre pairing.
For the Bulls‚ No 8 Duane Vermeulen makes an emotional return to Newlands. His family still lives in Cape Town while he plays out of Pretoria. But there will be no love lost on Saturday.
The former Stormers No 8 was a Newlands hero in his time there but it’s all business this weekend.
“Every team does have their own fortress though‚ so if you play at home it is always lekker‚” Vermeulen said in an interview with SuperSport this week.
“It is the same for the Stormers. It was always great for me to play there when I was with the team and now it is going to be a greater challenge for me when I’m playing against them.”
Vermeulen was roundly booed by fans when he turned out for the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium in a preseason match in January.
Stormers skipper Kolisi believes that if the fans dish out the same treatment this weekend‚ it won’t faze the big Bok No 8.
“I know Duane and he is the same week in and week out‚” Kolisi said.
“That kind of stuff [the booing] I don’t think even plays in his head. He’s very professional so he will come guns blazing like he does every single weekend. He won’t worry about that.
“Every game for us is personal. It’s not because Duane is here‚ it’s just that when it’s a South African team it’s a bit tougher.”
The Stormers are bracing for a tough breakdown battle with Bok Marco van Staden starting to come to the boil nicely this season. Kolisi will have a battle on his hands.
“We’ll see how we go at the breakdown this weekend‚” Fleck said.
“The Springbok captain is in the No 6 position and he knows how to handle those situations and so do the rest of the guys. We’re happy with our combinations there.”
Overall the Stormers have won 18 of 31 meetings between the teams with the Bulls winning 12 and one draw.
The Bulls also haven’t won at Newlands since 2011 and have only won three times in 15 Super Rugby visits to the stadium.
15 Damian Willemse‚ 14 Sergeal Petersen‚ 13 JJ Engelbrecht‚ 12 Damian de Allende‚ 11 Dillyn Leyds‚ 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis‚ 9 Herschel Jantjies‚ 8 Kobus van Dyk‚ 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ 6 Siya Kolisi (c)‚ 5 JD Schickerling‚ 4 Cobus Wiese‚ 3 Frans Malherbe‚ 2 Scarra Ntubeni‚ 1 Steven Kitshoff. Reserves: 16 Bongi Mbonambi‚ 17 Corne Fourie‚ 18 Wilco Louw‚ 19 Eben Etzebeth‚ 20 Ernst van Rhyn‚ 21 Justin Phillips‚ 22 Joshua Stander‚ 23 Seabelo Senatla.
15 Warrick Gelant‚ 14 Johnny Kotze‚ 13 Jesse Kriel‚ 12 Burger Odendaal‚ 11 Jade Stighling‚ 10 Handré Pollard (c)‚ 9 Ivan van Zyl‚ 8 Duane Vermeulen‚ 7 Hanro Liebenberg‚ 6 Marco van Staden‚ 5 RG Snyman‚ 4 Jannes Kirsten‚ 3 Trevor Nyakane‚ 2 Jaco Visagie‚ 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
16 Johan Grobbelaar‚ 17 Simphiwe Matanzima‚ 18 Wiehan Herbst‚ 19 Thembelani Bholi‚ 20 Paul Schoeman‚ 21 Embrose Papier‚ 22 Manie Libbok‚ 23 Divan Rossouw.