Stormers forwards brace for epic onslaught from Bulls in North-South rivalry

Stormers forwards coach Rito Hlungwani

Stormers forwards coach Rito Hlungwani. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published May 3, 2023

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Cape Town — The battle up front almost always determines the winner of the North-South derby between the Stormers and Bulls and it will be no different this Saturday when the two arch-rivals square up at the DHL Stadium.

An epic battle is expected between the two packs of forwards in their United Rugby Championship (URC) quarter-final with the Bulls and Stormers banking on their Springboks and experienced front rankers to carry them to victory.

It will especially be a spicy affair after an experienced Blue Bulls pack, full of URC players, were put to the sword by Western Province in the Currie Cup this past Saturday.

Quite a few of those players will be in the Bulls pack for the clash although combinations could change, while the possible return of Springbok flanker Marcell Coetzee can further boost the pack.

That's why Rito Hlungwani, forwards coach of the Stormers, warned his team to be ready for a switched-on Pretoria side.

"It is always tough playing the Bulls, they have a settled sort-of starting team," he said.

"Their front row, anyone can tell you who will start. They have two good locks in the two Ruans (Nortje and Vermaak). It's always going to be a tough challenge in the scrums and they have a very good contesting line-out and good maul.

"It's never easy against the Bulls, if you speak to our players who played Currie Cup, it wasn't an easy game, it was tough. And we are not expecting any less this weekend.

"They have a great bunch of boys up there, good team and pack. We know it's gonna be a big fight."

The Stormers will have to make a few tough decisions regarding their own loose trio for the match.

Fetcher Deon Fourie is fit and he will most likely be the first name written down after props Steven Kitshoff (who will captain the side) and Frans Malherbe. Fourie's jackling was missing in all the games he sat on the sidelines and his presence will give the home side a boost.

Then the Stormers coaches will have to decide if the power of Evan Roos or the fleet-footed Hacjivah Dayimani will be fitting to start at the back of the scrum.

Ben-Jason Dixon, Willie Englebrecht, and someone like Marcel Theunissen will also fight it out for a spot in the starting loose trio.

"We are quite lucky in the union to have these loose forwards and it's important for us to pick the right combination depending on who we are playing. Whoever it will be on Saturday, I am quite certain it will be the right personnel to dominate and play well against the Bulls.

"We are under no illusions that the Bulls will come out with their physicality from the start. But that's what we pride ourselves on. We not only want to match them but impose our physicality as well."

Hlungwani said they are healthy in the lock position even after Ernst van Rhyn tore his MCL ligaments and Ruben van Heerden also injured his knee.

"We are not sitting with a problem there (at lock). We have had some tough injuries, but if we look at our lock stocks we are sitting with Marvin (Orie), BJ (Dixon) has played lock, Adre (Smith) is back and there is Gary Porter.

"It is a pity about the injuries, but we are in a good space in that position."

@Leighton_K

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