Bulls v Stormers: Five player battles that can decide crunch URC derby

Stormers player Mannie Libbok in action

The Stormers will be confident of an eighth victory in a row against the Bulls, but can’t afford to be complacent. Seen here: Stormers player Manie Libbok. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 2, 2024


There are several Bulls and Stormers stars who will be going all out to prove a point ahead of next week’s Springbok alignment camp in today’s United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

But Bulls boss Jake White warned his players that they were guilty of doing that in previous games against their Cape rivals, only to come up short, seven times in a row. The Stormers will be confident of an eighth victory, but can’t afford to be complacent.

Here are five player match-ups that could decide the clash.

David Kriel v Damian Willemse

Bulls inside centre Kriel has been in outstanding form this year, and has made a permanent move to midfield after initially operating at fullback and wing. His tall frame makes him a handful with ball-in-hand, while he is also strong in defence and has a solid kicking game.

But Willemse is a Bok superstar who has a wide range of skills that can unlock the Bulls defence. The Stormers No 12 sometimes takes on too much on his shoulders, though, and is also coming off a lengthy Bok-enforced break, so may not be as sharp as he normally is.

Johan Goosen v Manie Libbok

Bulls flyhalf Goosen has blown hot and cold this year, but if he wants to be in the Bok mix again, this is the game to prove it. Libbok has become a phenomenal No 10 over the last few years, and it is his ability to stay cool under pressure and still be able to execute his special skills that makes him a stand-out pivot.

Goal-kicking will be vital for both flyhalves, but it is also about standing up in defence and making the most of their backlines that will determine who wins.

Marcell Coetzee v Hacjivah Dayimani

Dayimani was unlucky to be left out of the 43-man group invited to the Springbok alignment camp, so he will have an even bigger statement to make than many others on the pitch. The Stormers loose forward will continue at No 8 at Loftus, with Evan Roos at No 7, which will give Dayimani the space to use his speed in broken play.

But he will face a tough customer in Bulls co-captain Coetzee, whose high work-rate will make him a real nuisance to the Stormers.

Marco van Staden v Deon Fourie

These two openside flanks had to help the Boks out at hooker during last year’s World Cup, but today they will both be chasing the breakdowns to halt their opponents’ attacks.

Both Van Staden and Fourie had a penchant for giving away penalties earlier in their careers as they sometimes got their timing wrong at the rucks. But with experience, they are now able to hunt those turnovers almost at will so perhaps the key to nullifying their breakdown threats will be to off-load in the tackle.

Wilco Louw v Sti Sithole

Louw has added real bite to the Bulls scrum this year, winning several penalties and providing dominance in the set-piece. He isn’t shy to carry the ball up at close range too, and gets through his fair share of tackles as well. But he will come up against a wily customer in Stormers loosehead prop Sithole, who is a strong scrummager himself.


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