United Rugby Championship

Bulls Tackle Stormers In United Rugby Championship Game Of The Week

Bulls Tackle Stormers In United Rugby Championship Game Of The Week

The United Rugby Championship Game of the week see's the Vodacom Bulls tackle the DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Feb 16, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Bulls Tackle Stormers In United Rugby Championship Game Of The Week

The United Rugby Championship returns to our screens this week as the Guinness Six Nations heads into its first by week. 

As the European URC clubs rest their elite players, the South African sides are going full bore in two mouth-watering derby clashes. 

Picking between the two matches is undoubtedly a challenge, given the quality of the four teams. Yet any time there is a rematch of the most recent final, fans worldwide will always be intrigued. 

Despite meeting in the final just eight months ago, the trajectory of the two sides has been significantly different. 

Jake White's Bulls have been one of the more up-and-down teams in the URC and Heineken Champions Cup. 

World beaters one week, downright abysmal the next. A fact that scrum coach Werner Kruger was keen to point out heading into a clash with one of the more consistent teams in the league. 

"The Stormers do all of their basics very well, which will be a massive challenge for us, but the one thing for us with our scrum is our inconsistency," 

"We'll go well for two to three weeks, then drop off a bit. Players don't need additional hype for the North/South Derby, especially with the tickets that have been sold." Kruger said. 

White, for his part, has noted the need for squad rotation which has undoubtedly affected the consistency of performance throughout the first half of the season. 

Currently sitting fourth on the table, thanks mainly to the fact that the Glasgow Warriors have played one game less than the Pretoria-based team. They now face a monumental challenge to secure a home knock-out contest. 

However, working in their favour is the return of White, who underwent a frightening emergency surgery after falling ill before the Bulls clash with the Dragons in early January. 

Now back in the fold, the 2007 World Cup-winning coach has a proven track record of rectifying issues mid-season before making a push come to the playoffs. 

The reigning champions, DHL Stormers, are second only to Leinster this season and look set to be a lock for a home play-off spot. 

John Dobson's side plays one of the league's most attractive rugby brands. Often appearing to be rugby's answer to the Harlem Globe Trotters, the Stormers' lethal attaching talent has torched teams from round one to round fourteen. 

Spearheaded by a mix of Springbok internationals, experienced club players and emerging talent, the Stormers are perhaps the most well-rounded South African side. 

Starting up front with their Springbok front row of captain Steven Kitshoff, Hooker Joseph Dweba and Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe. The Stormers have the ability to dominate the scrums, thus laying the perfect foundation for their decisive and deadly backline. 

Pulling the strings in the backs are the Springbok duo of Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse, both of whom are currently in the best form of their careers. 

Libbok has found himself in the perfect set-up to utilise his vast array of skills. Having spent the early portion of his career bouncing around from team to team, the 25-year-old is possibly the best flyhalf in South African rugby. 

Outside him, Willemse, the Springboks' first-choice flyhalf throughout 2022, looks far more comfortable at either centre or fullback than in the number ten channel. 

Operating as a second receiver with the potential to skin a defence on the outside. Willemse's stock has risen so significantly that he is now one of the few un-droppable players for the Springboks heading to the World Cup. 

The only challenge facing Willemse and the team selectors is where the highly talented 24-year-old slot in. 

Having shown his ability to deputise as a flyhalf, Willemse could find himself starting at 10, 12 or 15 for the Boks this season. Given Handre Pollard's return from injury, it would appear that centre or fullback could be the option. 

Should Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus continue with their six forwards and two backs split on the bench, Willemse may find himself playing the role of super sub. 

Irrespective of how it all shakes out, one thing is for sure, Willemse will be one of the Springboks' key players throughout 2023. 

Key Match-Up 

As is the case with every South African derby, the battle of the backrows will go a long way to decide who leaves the clash in Pretoria victorious. 

Having already met in December, the two sides will be familiar with what the other brings. 

Outside of ten minutes of chaos, the Stormers blitzed the Bulls for three quick tries. The two sides were evenly matched as their forward packs went blow for blow in the tight exchanges.

For the Bulls to emerge victorious, they will need to drag the Stormers into another arm wrestle where their big men, such as captain Marcell Coetzee, Elrigh Louw, Ruan Nortje and Bismarck Du Plessis, can do damage. 

Having proven they can match up physically with the Bulls in December, the Stormers, who have got back several key players from injury, will look to get the big Bulls pack moving. 

Across the backrow, in particular, the Stormers have some of the most explosive players in club rugby. Hacjivah Dayimani has been perhaps the find of the season at Number Eight and looks to be a carbon copy of French international Sekou Macalou. Both players are quicker than most backline players in the professional game, offering their respective sides a unique attacking threat in the wider channels. 

Having announced that they will rest several of their Springbok stars this weekend, Dayimani will be crucial for the Stormers. 

One Springbok player who is likely to be named is the physically imposing Evan Roos, who has returned from injury at just the right time for the Stormers. 

How Roos combines with Dayimani remains to be seen, but given that both men are exceptionally dynamic, their potential pairing could significantly boost the defending champions' chances.


Given the Stormers are to be short a number of their international players, the Bulls will fancy their chances at getting one over a team they have struggled with of late. 

Speaking about their struggles against their Cape Townian rivals, Springbok winger Cornal Hendricks said, "One can't run away from the fact that the Stormers are a very good team,"

"Especially over the last two years, they've become a strong team. I won't say they have a psychological hold on us, it's just that you have to give credit where it is due, and they were the better team.

"We are working on plans to give our best showing against them. We've always had good contests. This weekend we want to make use of the home-ground advantage. Playing at Loftus is always special to us." 

Clearly confident of their chances at home, the Bulls will be only too aware that a loss will all but end their chances of a home playoff game. 

Throw in the weather forecast for heavy rain and the Stormers being absent of their powerful Springbok forwards, and the needle only shifts further in the Bulls' favour. 

Combining all of these factors, the Bulls will get one over their long-time rivals as they win by 6 points in front of the Loftus faithful.

Written by Philip Bendon