Andries Bekker: Bulls need ‘special thing’ to beat Stormers

Andries Bekker rises high at a kick-off ahead of Bulls legend Victor Matfield in the Stormers’ 2011 victory at Loftus Versfeld. Photo: Etienne Rothbart Independent Newspapers

Andries Bekker rises high at a kick-off ahead of Bulls legend Victor Matfield in the Stormers’ 2011 victory at Loftus Versfeld. Photo: Etienne Rothbart Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 29, 2024


Having played 104 matches for the Stormers, you would never think that Andries Bekker would cross the great divide and be part of the Bulls.

But that became a reality for the former Springbok lock, who won 29 Test caps, this season when he finally left Japan’s Kobe Steelers to become the Bulls’ forwards coach.

Now, the 40-year-old giant is staring down his former team in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

“We were away for 10 years, so it was long and good for us. But it’s good to be back in the country and being able to work with our own people,” Bekker said.

“To be honest, I never thought that one day I would be anywhere else but WP. But it has been good, my family is happy, and you learn a lot from Jake (White, Bulls director of rugby).

“Gary Gold is also here, who has coached internationally, so it’s nice to work with him again.

“The easiest and best part of it is the players. They don’t ask too many questions, they work hard and say ‘yes coach!’ And these are guys who want to get better.”

It might be difficult deep down inside for Bekker to plot the downfall of his beloved Stormers, but it is not a moment too soon for the Bulls, who need some inspiration to end their seven-match losing streak against the Capetonians.

Bekker, who is the tallest ever Springbok at 2.08m, acknowledged that John Dobson’s team have found the right recipe – especially against South African teams – but will hope that his Bulls pack of forwards can dish up a unique offering on Saturday to emerge victorious.

The last game in December saw the Stormers clinch a 26-20 win over the Bulls at the Cape Town Stadium.

“You can see this season, they’re one team (the Stormers). Everyone is fighting for that same purpose. It’s not to say that we are different, but you can definitely see that there is something special going on there – and that’s why they haven’t lost to a South African team in quite a while,” Bekker said.

“That’s our challenge: to bring our special thing to the pitch on Saturday.

“I will take it back to when I started ... We lost 75-14 at Loftus, and then the following year we lost again with 50 points. Then the year after that, it was 40 points.

“But those six or seven years of losing to them, you get each time that feeling of it’s getting a bit closer and closer. The score is getting smaller, closer, tighter games – until the one time where you just have that special week where everything is perfect.

“The first time that our Stormers team beat the Bulls was 2011, if I remember correctly. Then it’s like, okay, everything is off your shoulders. That is how the week worked out, and this is the follow-up, of seeing what worked for us in previous games.

“We must just get our special thing for Saturday, and we are working hard on that. The guys have the same feeling of, ‘it’s getting closer and closer’. We are getting there, and we must just fine-tune it and everyone must bring their personal belief and what’s important to them.”

Both teams should be at full strength, with all World Cup Springboks back in the mix. Two of those players, openside flanks Marco van Staden (Bulls) and Deon Fourie (Stormers), could provide one of the highlights of Saturday’s clash.

But Bekker has called on the Bulls to maintain their composure in the red-hot Loftus cauldron, where a 52 000-capacity crowd is expected.

“I know there is a lot of history in Bulls-Stormers – and there always will be – but I don’t think we must change our mental prep just because it’s the Stormers,” he said.

“We mustn’t blow up this game as if it is a final – the final is still coming.

“If you want to be the best player in the country and in this competition, then you must challenge yourself against the best players in the other teams.

“A good challenge will be Marco against Deon Fourie. Both were in the Bok group for the World Cup and have had bloody good seasons so far, and it’s the same with Ruan (Nortjé, Bulls lock) against Ruben (van Heerden, Stormers lock) – if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

“How you can transfer pressure and relieve pressure, and game management with your kicking and running games. That’s one of our big learnings from that (December) game – just how we transfer pressure and how we didn’t really relieve pressure.

“It was a close game and one we could’ve won, but we didn’t. So, it’s good learning for this one on Saturday.”