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Johannesburg – The adage that there are no easy matches in Super Rugby will be highlighted this weekend as the Bulls and Stormers square up in their season opener at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
Both sides finished in the top six of the 2012 edition and they will again go into the competition among the favourites to challenge for the trophy in August.
The Stormers have earned the reputation as the best defensive unit in the competition, although their attack was found wanting last year.
They were severely criticised by the Newlands faithful for abandoning their traditional flair for a more defensive style.
The Capetonians nevertheless came close to producing the goods by advancing to the playoffs where they lost to the Sharks in their semi-final at Newlands.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, however, mixed things up during the Currie Cup with the team demonstrating that they were able to win matches with attacking rugby, which saw them taking the honours in the provincial competition.
“The Stormers have shown they are a team that keeps the opposition out so that they don’t score tries, but it will take a great and accurate effort from us,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said ahead of the clash.
“We are positive and we’ve made a few adjustments in the way we attack.”
With the addition of playmaker flyhalf Elton Jantjies, the Stormers are expected to attack the gainline with greater impetus than in the past.
Ludeke said they would keep a keen eye on the youngster, who could ask some questions of the Bulls’ defence.
“He’s got his strengths and he’ll play to it, he is a confident player and will attack the line, but only Friday will tell,” Ludeke said.
“We know what Elton is about and he’ll definitely ask questions, and the way the Stormers will use him in the first 10 minutes of the game will tell what the tactics will be around him.”
Coetzee said the Bulls’ illustrious history in the competition made them a force to be reckoned with in the competition.
“The Bulls will always be in the mix. They are the only South African franchise to have won this competition three times, and they are a very proud team and union,” Coetzee said.
“They have a quality pack and we have seen in the pre-season that Morne Steyn is back to his best, both in kicking out of hand and at posts.”
The Stormers mentor believed the Bulls were further strengthened by the appointment of former Springbok and Bulls stalwart Victor Matfield to the Pretoria outfit's management team.
“I definitely think they will be a better side this year, I'd say much better,” he said.
“They have an extra arrow in their quiver this year in the form of Victor Matfield.
“We all know what he has achieved and what expertise he can bring as an attack and lineout coach.”
The Stormers came out on top in both their matches against the Bulls in last year's competition, including a rare victory at Loftus.
However, Coetzee felt the victory in Pretoria did not diminish the imposing nature of the stadium.
“It is a big game for us against a quality Bulls outfit at Loftus,” Coetzee said.
“It is never going to be easy, but with this team we have covered all our basis and we'll be up for a massive derby game.” – Sapa