Bulls using rotation for ‘extra energy’ against the Stormers

Canan Moodie of the Vodacom Bulls challenged by Rohan Janse van Rensburg of the Hollywoodbets Sharks during the 2023 United Rugby Championships match between Bulls and Sharks at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria

The Bulls will head to the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday with one mission only: to end the six-match losing streak against John Dobson’s Stormers. Seen here: Bulls player Canan Moodie with the ball. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Dec 21, 2023


Bulls boss Jake White “has no doubt” that his rotation policy and several new recruits will make a difference in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown with the Stormers.

The Pretoria side will head to the Cape Town Stadium (7pm kick-off) with one mission only: to end the six-match losing streak against John Dobson’s team.

The last encounter saw the Stormers triumph 33-21 in the URC quarter-final in May, but it will be a very different Bulls outfit arriving in the Mother City this weekend.

They are third on the URC log with five wins out of seven matches, they’ve beaten Saracens at Loftus Versfeld, lost by a point – with a second-string line-up – to Lyon in France last week, and kept their first-choice, Springbok-laden team behind in the capital city for two weeks to prepare for the Stormers clash.

Stars waiting in the wings

The likes of Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie are among a host of stars who will look to bring the attacking spark that can unlock a normally watertight Stormers defence that hasn’t been operating smoothly this season.

Add the fire and brimstone of powerful forwards such as Akker van der Merwe, Wilco Louw, Elrigh Louw and new No 8 sensation Cameron Hanekom, and the Bulls appear primed to finally topple the Stormers on Saturday.

“I’ve got no doubt it will be the difference. If you look carefully at what happened, the Stormers went to Leicester with one group, and then faced La Rochelle with a fresh group. They had to wait until the last play of the game to beat La Rochelle with their fresh players,” White said from Loftus on Wednesday.

“So, I’m hoping that this week, the fact that we’ve rotated, have some fresh players, didn’t have to travel back and forth to France (with this week’s squad) will give us some sort of extra energy – and I suppose some extra fuel in the tank for this weekend, because we know it’s a massive game.”

Tighthead prop Wilco Louw’s arrival from Harlequins in England in particular has made a marked difference to the Bulls scrum, while the Capetonians have lost Steven Kitshoff to Ulster and Bok No 3 Frans Malherbe is still busy with rehabilitation for a lower back issue.

“One of the areas that was a bit of an Achilles heel was our scrum. At that stage, if you consider we were playing the Stormers with Kitshoff and Malherbe – who are World Cup winners – we started with a really inexperienced front row who were young,” White said.

Players gaining vital experience

“Guys like Gerhard Steenekamp and Mornay Smith have grown as well and have become better, also become much more streetwise and a bit more experienced and understand the pressure.

“Then, to get acquisitions like Akker van der Merwe and Wilco Louw (who) were two missing pieces in our jigsaw puzzle. And it’s not just them – Elrigh Louw is a bit older now, Marcell (Coetzee) coming back from overseas … Our squad has definitely got a couple more strings to our bow.

“I’m not saying we are the complete deal yet – we are far from that – but I am a lot more confident that in areas where we were exposed or could become better, we definitely improved.

“I can say verbatim from the team psychologist Henning Gericke that we are in a wonderful place. We’ve got a really great mindset, and the players are really looking forward to the game.

“He spent last week working with them as well while we were away, talking about the next block of games, and he is very confident. I trust him enough to know that he’s got a gut feeling for where the team are at this present moment.”