Five ways the Stormers can keep their URC winning streak alive against Bulls

The Stormers’ Frans Malherbe during a training session

FILE - The Stormers’ Frans Malherbe during a training session. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 1, 2024


The Stormers had a few selection headaches in the forwards for Saturday’s north-south derby against the Bulls in Pretoria.

As if those headaches were not enough, the selected pack can expect more uphill battles from the home side’s versatile forwards in the United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

IOL Sport looks at five key areas the Stormers will have to be sound at to weather the Bulls storm ...

Their rumbling scrum

Whether they are throwing Bok Frans Malherbe into the deep end after his return or they keep it tight at No 3 with Neethling Fouché, the Stormers scrum can expect a fierce challenge from Jake White’s side.

The Bulls have plenty of Springboks to select from, and will look to bring an end to the dominant scrum of the former URC champions.

Should he be selected by White, Springbok loosehead prop Gerhard Steenekamp can impress if he goes up against Fouché or Malherbe – while they will be looking to get a right shoulder against him.

The Stormers, though, won’t be too focused on those in the Bulls camp, but rather on producing another strong outing in the scrums, from where they can milk penalties to put them in favourable territory.

Contesting the line-out

This is probably the other important spot where the two sides will try to outrank each other. And they will jump at the chance to disrupt any line-out ball of their opponents.

The Stormers are a side that love to attack off their line-out, and if the likes of Ruben van Heerden and Evan Roos can get this set piece going, it will provide some prime attacking possession to set their backline free.

Equally, they know the Bulls’ strike-power off their line-out, and the devastating rolling mauls they can get going from clean line-out possession. That’s why the contest, even when they are under pressure, will be important to the Stormers. It was a saving grace a few weeks ago against the Sharks.

Breaking down the rucks

By their own admission, the inaugural URC champions haven’t been at the best when it comes to securing their rucks. It’s an area their opponents have been able to disrupt almost at will. The Bulls would have taken note of that.

Things went a little better against the Sharks, and head coach John Dobson will want to see some more improvements in this area. They will have to climb into the Bulls’ big men to try disrupt quick possession when they are on the defence.

Cleaning and protecting their ball possession will be the key to getting their destructive attackers in the backline going.

Defending for their lives

The Stormers are well adapted to playing for the full 80 minutes and beyond, and they know in a derby against the Bulls that will be required – especially if there is a late onslaught on their tryline, where they have to put their bodies on the line.

In their last couple of games, desperate defence halted various teams, including tomorrow’s opponents, from getting one over them in the dying stages of a clash, which is where Deon Fourie will be crucial with his work rate.

Their double tackles are not as good as in the previous two seasons of URC rugby, and tomorrow will be a perfect opportunity to sharpen up on that. The Bulls will come at them with everything – they have a seven-match loss streak to break in front of their fans.

Heavy carries in the trams

If their attack does not function as well as they want it to for some reason, the Stormers will fall back on their ability to carry the ball up into contact over the gain line.

That is how the Lions brought themselves back into the game against the Bulls a few weeks ago. With some massive ball-carrying forwards, it should be one of the Stormers’ weapons tomorrow – taking on the home side with the ball tucked under the arm of a Roos or Van Heerden.

Getting over that gain line with some strong carries will unlock the space out wide, and their backs just need a tiny bit of space to sneak over in the corner.


IOL Sport