Cape Town – The South African teams have had a decent break, but now it’s time for red-hot action again in the United Rugby Championship this weekend.
The Bulls will host the Stormers in an almighty north-south Derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (5.05pm kick-off), and before that, the Lions take on the Sharks at Ellis Park (3pm).
The Stormers are leading the South African Shield at the moment as they are second on the overall URC log with 50 points from 13 games, with the Bulls fourth with 40 points from 13 matches – with five URC league encounters left.
So, for Jake White’s side to have any chance of claiming top spot in SA and being guaranteed a home quarter-final and a possible home semi-final, they must beat the Stormers this weekend.
And despite a number of Springboks being rested in line with national team protocols, the interest from fans has been immense.
Early on Wednesday, the Bulls announced that they had already sold 31 000 tickets for the Loftus clash, with president Willem Strauss saying on social media that he was hoping for 40 000 spectators to help the team end a four-match losing streak against John Dobson’s side.
Strauss noted, though, that the only time the Stormers had beaten the Bulls at Loftus during the White era was in front of a crowd of 2 000 in January 2022, during Covid-19 restrictions, with the other three defeats at the Cape Town Stadium – including the final last June.
So, a packed Loftus will create an electric atmosphere, with the home crowd – and a few thousand Stormers supporters too – urging on Bulls captain Ruan Nortje and his team.
“Let’s fill Loftus on Saturday with a massive crowd! The Loftus faithful is Player 24, and our energy (is) a huge motivation for our team,” Strauss said.
As an added incentive, the Bulls said on social media that ticket-holders for Saturday’s match would also have the first choice to buy tickets for the Springboks’ Rugby Championship Test against the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld on July 8.
Ticket prices for the Bulls – Stormers game range from R25 to R250. Booking at www.ticketpros.co.za
Bulls scrum coach Werner Kruger said on Tuesday that the players were thrilled to be back at Loftus after a difficult time since mid-December, when they had just one match in Pretoria out of seven – and won only two.
“Everyone is excited to be back at Loftus. We only had one home game in January and one in December, so it’s exciting to be back home and playing in front of a Loftus Versfeld that’s selling out pretty quickly,” Kruger said.
“North-south derbies are always going to be physical, and it’s always going to start upfront. So, we are under no illusions that it’s going to be a tough task upfront.
“It doesn’t matter what personnel the Stormers put out at the moment – their scrum is functioning really well as a unit and a pack. So, it’s a big challenge for us, and in a derby like this, it is going to come down to fine margins. We need our set-piece to function and work well.”