Schalk Burger says it’s “impossible” to keep Handré Pollard quiet on a rugby field, but Allister Coetzee instead wants his Stormers team to make the Bulls worry about what they are doing in tomorrow’s Super Rugby derby at Newlands.
Pollard has been on the lips of the South African rugby fraternity all week long following his scintillating Springbok Test debut against Scotland last week, and the 20-year-old looms as one of the major obstacles that the Stormers will have to neutralise in the expected wet conditions tomorrow night.
But Coetzee is right when he speaks about what his team will bring to the game. There are many areas in which the Stormers seem to be stronger, such as the loose forwards. Bulls coach Frans Ludeke had little choice but to pick an imbalanced loose trio due to injury, with Grant Hattingh at No 8 (he’s actually a lock), Jacques Engelbrecht at blindside flank and Jono Ross at openside (both Engelbrecht and Ross are specialist No 8s).
Contrast that to the Stormers, who boast in Burger and Vermeulen two players who started last Saturday’s Test against Scotland, a top-class loose forward in Nizaam Carr, who has beat off the challenges of Deon Fourie and Siya Kolisi for the Stormers No 6 jersey, and Kolisi on the bench.
That could change today when it will be decided whether Vermeulen will play as he is “sore” due to a heavy workload. It appears as if Vermeulen, who celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday, may take a break and not run out at Newlands, but a final call will be made today.
There are some potentially explosive showdowns in the backline too, where Stormers threats such as Gio Aplon, Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh and Sailosi Tagicakibau would look to pressurise Bulls defenders such as JJ Engelbrecht, Bjorn Basson and Jan Serfontein.
“The big asset Pollard’s got is how matured he’s become in such a short space of time. He’s a world-class player, but it’s difficult to just put pressure on one player,” Coetzee said.
“We’ve got to be good all around the field, and put pressure on the set-piece, and that’s got to filter through to nine and 10. Hopefully by doing that, we will take time and space away.
“We’ve got to do our stuff right and focus on how we want to play than to worry about what’s coming our way. Hopefully they can worry about what we are dishing up!”
The man who will be expected to set Kolbe and Aplon away is Kurt Coleman, who has shown that he can produce the goods against big-name players before, like he did against Johan Goosen at Newlands in May.
Coleman also featured strongly in the Stormers’ two-try start against the Bulls at Loftus in the first round, and if his forwards can give him enough ball, he will want to prove that Pollard is only human.
The 24-year-old Stormers No 10’s tactical and line-kicking will also have to be spot-on in the slippery and windy conditions.
“Kurt has surprised a lot of people and has played some good rugby. He just maybe needs to play an 80-minute game as he tends to drop off in the last 20, and that’s something important. If he wants to go further in his career, he needs to play an 80-minute game,” backline coach Robbie Fleck said this week. “He has all the skills in the book to be a quality player, so it’s a nice challenge for him against Pollard.”
While the Bulls are missing the likes of Deon Stegmann, Jacques du Plessis and Pierre Spies, the Stormers will be hoping that Burger can unsettle Pollard with a few big hits. “Look, I’ve been chasing flyhalves my whole career and I haven’t got one yet. (Pollard) quality player, and he just takes everything in his stride. You can’t keep classy players out of the game. That’s what makes this game so wonderful,” the skipper said.
“We will shift the focus on to our game, and hopefully through the way we play, put them under pressure. But trying to keep Pollard quiet – it’s impossible.”
teams for newlands
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen/Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger (captain), 6 Nizaam Carr/Siya Kolisi, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Alistair Vermaak. Bench: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Siya Kolisi/Jean Kleyn, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
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 Engelbrecht, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling. Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Morné Mellett, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 William Small-Smith.
Referee: Craig Joubert. Kickoff: 5.05pm. TV: M-Net/SS1/HD1. - Cape Times