Bulls attack must out-work Stormers defence
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CAPE TOWN - The last time the Bulls faced the Stormers they won 20-16 at Cape Town Stadium despite conceding 19 penalties to eight on the day.
The victory was largely built around a determined defensive effort, as well as a superb line-out that disrupted the Capetonians throughout.
But the Bulls will have to come up with a more dynamic attacking display this time around if they want to maintain their unbeaten record under Jake White at Loftus Versfeld in Friday’s Rainbow Cup SA clash (7pm kick-off).
In their previous encounter, it was almost a case of a boxer (the Bulls) absorbing every shot that his opponent (the Stormers) could throw at them, but then landing some heavy blows in between.
Those blows came through Madosh Tambwe’s two sensational tries and solid goal-kicking from Morné Steyn and a late Chris Smith penalty.
The Bulls are a much better team than that performance suggested, and it all came together in the second half against the Sharks a week later, where they scored 31 unanswered points.
Of course, their last match was a 34-33 defeat to the Lions, where they arguably lost the game in the last 15 minutes through a series of errors, where they conceded penalties, lost possession and missed touch from penalties.
It also wasn’t a perfect performance up to that point, with the scrum and defence issues well documented, but their attack also needs sharpening up.
White was quick to point out after the Lions game – when the attacking effort was questioned – that “to score five tries, you aren’t looking too bad in terms of your attack. Some of those tries were fantastic – the way we kept the ball, the way we went from side to side”.
But they need to do more of that, and perhaps the reintroduction of their regular halfbacks, Ivan van Zyl and Steyn, will solve that rhythm issue. Van Zyl has been sidelined by injury and has missed the entire Rainbow Cup SA, but White did say he should be ready to play this week – with the team to be named tomorrow.
Even though the scrumhalf is joining Leicester Tigers in England in July, he is still available for the Bulls until then, and his ability to get his backline going is one of his strengths.
Steyn sat out of the Lions game due to Bok resting protocols, and his patience and classy touches on attack will make a significant difference on Friday night.
While strike-runners such as Tambwe and Stravino Jacobs are effective, the Bulls need to wear down the Stormers defence by going through the phases and out-working the defence, thereby bringing big loose forwards Duane Vermeulen and Elrigh Louw into play.
They also won’t be getting those line-out freebies this time around, with JD Schickerling and Marvin Orie fit again, and Pieter-Steph du Toit firing on all cylinders.
Mind you, the Bulls coach said the likes of Gio Aplon and Travis Ismaiel should also be available this week, and they could provide serious firepower off the bench.