PRETORIA – The Bulls and Stormers may be sitting at opposite ends of the Super Rugby spectrum but they will go into today’s encounter at Loftus Versfeld (3pm) with a common goal – victory.
Victory carries with it different implications for both sides. The Stormers are seeking to have their troops battle hardened ahead of their quarter-final next weekend; the Bulls are looking to bring the curtain down on a high to what has been a dismal season.
It should be a win for the Stormers even though the Bulls have shown some fight in them in their two last encounters against the Sharks and Southern Kings.
However that fight in the wounded Bulls might not be enough to stave off the confidence the Stormers will take into this encounter after putting away the Sunwolves and Cheetahs with ease in their past two matches.
For the Stormers this will be the last opportunity for their abrasive pack of forwards, ably led into battle by the dominance of their tight five, to get rid of any chink in their armour ahead of what will be a demanding and once off play-off at Newlands.
While the Stormers’ scrums and line-outs have held their own against the best the competition has thrown at them, they will want to hit their straps by being deadly accurate in everything they do.
The Cape side carry with them big guns in their Springbok-laden pack with the likes of Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr needing to show their mettle.
But they will face a formidable foe in the Bulls pack who have not fired at full throttle this season but have talented youngsters in Coenraad van Vuuren, Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman, Shaun Adendorf and Jannes Kirsten who on their day can box toe-to-toe with the best.
What will be of some concern for the Stormers is the danger that the Bulls backs will pose if given time and space, and the tables could be turned on them if the likes of the in-form Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel, Warrick Gelant and Duncan Matthews get into the stride.
But the Stormers would have learnt from last year’s embarrassing quarter-final defeat to the Chiefs and in this their final dress rehearsal before confronting those demons, they will look to play their eye-pleasing brand of rugby.
The Stormers go into this derby as the clear favourites and coach Robbie Fleck will want to see them live up to that tag and to do so with the ruthlessness of a team looking to live beyond next weekend in the competition.