- Stormers coach John Dobson says the north-south derby against the Bulls will be a “classic, real forward fest”.
- The coach, however, noted the importance of ball security as both teams posed threats out wide.
- Prop and captain Steven Kitshoff is looking forward to the battle at scrum time where he will duel Springbok team-mate Trevor Nyakane.
Stormers coach John Dobson says Saturday’s Super Rugby Unlocked encounter against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld has the makings of “classic forward fest”.
After naming his team on Thursday, Dobson told reporters in a virtual media briefing that they were aware of the physical threats posed by the Bulls pack.
The Bulls wreaked havoc on the Sharks in a 41-14 win at the same ground last week, stealing several balls at the breakdown and causing trouble in the lineouts and scrums as the game wore on.
Dobson said he took note of the breakdown threat but acknowledged it was not the only area of focus for his charges.
“We’re aware of the breakdown threat that they pose. I think they got six seals (against the Sharks) … obviously we know Marco (van Staden) and Duane (Vermeulen) steal well. It’s something we trained for this week.”
But Dobson is confident that players like Jaco Coetzee, who starts in place of the injured Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff and Bongi Mbonambi will be able to counter the Bulls.
“It is going to be a big battle but having Jaco with us… he’s also a really good stealer… him, Steven and Bongi are really good stealers, so I think it will be a quite a big battle.
“But I don’t think it will be the forwards’ biggest battle – we’re expecting quite a big battle at scrum time, obviously that’s an area we’re very proud of. And then obviously the collision line is going to be big, that’s probably where the acid test for the forwards will lie. But we have prepared for the breakdown threat.”
Dobson also called for more accuracy at lineout time, with the Stormers having butchered valuable possession in this department during last weekend’s come-from-behind 42-37 win over the Pumas in Nelspruit.
“Our issue hasn’t been so much not winning lineouts, it’s been that we’ve messed up a delivery or we’ve messed up a maul rip or the pass from 9 to 10. So, we’ve never been able to launch off our lineouts.”
The coach said the Bulls would also be challenging in this department.
“Ruan Nortje is also quite good in the air, Duane’s really good at making decisions on contesting. I think it’s got the makings of a classic, a real forward fest.”
Loosehead prop Kitshoff, who captains the Stormers in Kolisi’s absence, said he was expecting a big tussle with Springbok team-mate Trevor Nyakane who will start at tighthead for the Bulls on Saturday.
“We all know Trevor, he’s a world-class Springbok and a very good scrummager, especially in the last couple of years he’s picked up his game when it comes to set piece. But I think it’s going to be two physical packs going at each other for 80 minutes, so it’s definitely the team with the most legs towards the end of the game that will milk the penalties.”
Kitshoff is back in the Stormers line-up after missing the Pumas match due to Covid-19 protocols, but he’s raring to go this weekend and expects a Test-like encounter.
“It was a setback being isolated for a couple of days but it’s great to be back with the team. I’m grateful to be captain this weekend and looking forward to a massive challenge that lies ahead at Loftus.
“In the Super Rugby competition, this will be the closest game we have to a Test match – two dominant packs facing each other and probably a lot of aerial contests, so really looking forward to going out there.”
While the game will likely be decided up front, Dobson also warned of the threats posed out wide and stressed the importance of ball security.
“We can’t afford a turnover ball, Loftus is a fast field. In Kurt-Lee (Arendse) and Stedman (Gans)… they’ve got real X-factor, so it’s not a traditional Bulls team from that point of view.
“We’re going to have to be really sharp on the transition stuff. Having said that, it goes exactly the same way back to us – if they turn over against us, guys like Zas (Leolin), Warrick (Gelant) or Dan Dup (Du Plessis) will hurt them.
“So, I would expect one or two long-range tries but I think ball security will be absolutely paramount to both teams.”
Saturday’s clash in Pretoria kicks off at 19:00.
15 David Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)
Substitutes (from): 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 David Meihuizen, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Ben-Jason Dixon, 23 Godlen Masimla, 24 Tim Swiel, 25 Angelo Davids, 26 Tristan Leyds