Cape Town — Life’s a pitch sometimes, and that feeling may be going through the minds of the Stormers and Bulls players in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship quarter-final (3.30pm kick-off).
The Cape Town Stadium surface will be totally done over in the off-season, with a hybrid mix of grass and plastic seemingly resembling the renowned Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
But currently, the already under-fire playing area is feeling the effects of the recent Monster Jam truck event, which saw the players battling to maintain their balance in last week’s Western Province-Blue Bulls game.
Kurt-Lee Arendse was slipping and sliding, Wandisile Simelane pulled his right hamstring, and several other players found the going tough as the ball also bounced awkwardly at times.
That is why Bulls boss Jake White called on referee Jaco Peyper to be sympathetic, particularly in the scrums, where it is sure to be a titanic contest between the all-Springbok front row of Steven Kitshoff, Joseph Dweba and Frans Malherbe, and the Pretoria combo of Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar and Mornay Smith.
“When it comes to scrumming, I think everyone is appreciative of the fact that it is a very different surface to scrum on. Thank goodness we’ve got Jaco Peyper — the best referee we have in South Africa, a World Cup referee. I’m sure he will make the right calls … I am sure he won’t be going penalty against anybody based on the fact that there are perceptions,” White said on Friday.
“The last time we played against the Stormers, we scrummed really well and got two scrum penalties. So, as long as it’s not done on a call where there’s guessing — which I am saying I don’t think will be the case with Jaco there.
“Therefore, there might be some slipping and sliding, but as long as that call doesn’t go against a team and results in (affecting) the outcome of the game.
“Lineout-wise, the surface has no impact, but the scrums will be a good contest, and I have full faith in Jaco understanding the surface. So, I can’t see us getting a different (unfair) call there.”
White pointed out that the Stormers tend to rush up quickly in defence, so that tactic provides the Bulls with an opportunity on attack, where the likes of Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Stedman Gans will be waiting to pounce.
The Bulls have scored the most points in the URC league stages with 613, with Leinster second on 580, so the Pretoria outfit know how to keep things ticking over.
“That is why it’s going to be such an intriguing clash, because we did score the most points out of everyone in the competition,” White said.
“But stats can be seen in different ways … We also conceded the most points, not because of tries, but penalties. That’s why I said I am trusting the fact that there won’t be a penalty given on perception, that we can limit the penalties.
“We can score points, so that’s fine. Their defence is really good. I think at times, they shoot the gun a bit, and that’s obviously something we will have to see if we can expose.
“That’s why it’s such an interesting and intriguing clash: a really good defensive team against a team that scored the most points.
“But as I said, it’s irrelevant how many points you’ve scored and conceded, how many penalties you gave away.
“Big week, knockout game against a really good Stormers team. They’re champions, 10 incumbent Springboks, playing at home … They’ve lost one game at home in the last months, so it’s one of those massive games for us at the Bulls.”