PRETORIA – The Bulls are in it for the long haul as they look to tighten their grip on top spot in the South African conference over the next two months.
The Pretoria-based team enjoy a tiny one-point lead over the chasing pack in the conference with the Stormers threatening their position in this weekend’s north-south derby.
Bulls flank Marco van Staden, who made his long-awaited return in the Bulls win over the Reds, said the Stormers would be looking to knock them off their perch.
“South African derbies are always tough, and they are coming off a defeat so they will be looking to bounce back while we are at the top and everyone will be gunning for us,” Van Staden said.
“It is never playing (sailing) at Newlands, I’ve never played an easy game there, so they come with a lot of emotion, and they have the home-ground advantage.
“It is going to be a tough one, but we are looking forward to it.”
Van Staden made a strong showing in his comeback against the Reds before taking a breather during last week’s bye.
Saturday’s match against the Stormers will be the ideal chance for Van Staden to gauge how much rust he still has in his system.
“It is always nice playing the big games to test yourself and put yourself under pressure,” Van Staden said. “It was a good rest, the boys needed a good rest, we put in some work during the off time, and we are ready to go and (are) hungry to play.”
The Bulls can expect more reinforcements for the derby with Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen expected to make his return from his two-week rest.
The Bulls could field one of their strongest teams this season, which would make for an enticing spectacle.
The Stormers will welcome back some of their stalwarts including influential locks Eben Etzebeth and JD Schickerling.
The home team can also call on Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi, Damian de Allende, Frans Malherbe, and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Saturday’s encounter could be considered a mini Springbok trial with both teams packed with national players.
“I don’t see it as trials, I haven’t played in a long time, so I just focus on playing Super Rugby and doing best there and controlling what I can control,“ Van Staden said.
“If it happens (Bok selection), I would be very grateful for the opportunity, but at this stage, my focus is to play well.”@ockertde