Stormers forwards will ’go very deep’ against Bulls despite altitude
CAPE TOWN - Whenever the Stormers and Bulls go head to head, the contest up front can always be expected to be a fierce battle.
With the kind of quality and Springbok flavour both these teams have among their forwards, it’s only natural that the performances of the packs would be one of the best, or most anticipated, subplots.
But now, given the injury situation the Stormers have among their forwards, another focus will be how those guys stand up considering the fact that they will be without a number of key players and that the bench isn’t exactly brimming with reinforcements.
With regular captain Siya Kolisi on the sidelines for the next few weeks, Nama Xaba in doubt, Pieter-Steph du Toit out for the year and his younger brother, Johan also unavailable due to injury, it’s not hard to see why head coach John Dobson said he is expecting his forwards to play a long game at Loftus on Saturday (7pm kickoff).
“We are going to have to ask a couple of our forwards to go very deep,” Dobson said earlier this week. “Whether it’s through injuries or overseas opportunities, a tier of this team is not there ... guys like Wilco (Louw), Ali (Vermaak), Cobus Wiese and Johan du Toit.
“Having those guys on the bench would be significant.
“So, we are aware that we are going to have to go to altitude and some of those big forwards are going to have to go pretty long. Especially if Nama and Siya are both out. Then you ask a guy like Jaco (Coetzee), who hasn’t got a lot of game time because of his injuries, to probably play a bit longer.
“So that will probably be one of the biggest threats in this game.”
As Dobson said, playing at altitude will also be a factor and something that would no doubt have been easier had they had enough fresh legs to relieve some pressure later in the game, especially against a pack like the Bulls’.
Jake White’s players were absolutely brutal up front against the Sharks, and their dominance really showed at the set-pieces, while the breakdown was another area their forwards had the upper hand in.
And that - everything that the Bulls can come at you with - is going to make the Stormers’ already-tough situation even more challenging.
After the comeback win against the Pumas last weekend, Dobson said that the character they showed to fight back and score four tries in the last quarter was one of the few positives from that match for the Cape side.
And if their forwards, especially, can show that character again this weekend in trying conditions, it could still be a really good contest up front.