United Rugby Championship

Unfazed Connacht Gears Up For Vodacom Bulls Battle At Loftus Versfeld

Unfazed Connacht Gears Up For Vodacom Bulls Battle At Loftus Versfeld

After a hard-fought win in Durban, Connacht prepares for a faceoff with the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, as they look to remain unbeaten in SA.

Nov 23, 2023 by Philip Bendon
Unfazed Connacht Gears Up For Vodacom Bulls Battle At Loftus Versfeld

Fresh from a hard-fought victory over the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Durban, Connacht is gearing up for a challenging encounter against the Vodacom Bulls at the formidable Loftus Versfeld. 

The Irish side secured a 13-12 win in South Africa, marking its fifth BKT URC victory in 10 matches on South African soil. 

Connacht's defense coach, Scott Fardy, emphasized the significance of the Durban win, acknowledging the difficulties of playing in South Africa. 

"I think it's a massive win," he said. "Durban is a difficult place to come to after a long week of travel, distractions and lots of things. It was great to win our opening game in South Africa, but for us, that doesn't ease any pressure heading into Saturday against the Vodacom Bulls."

Fardy, a former Wallabies forward with experience in South African rugby, noted the challenges of travel, distractions and the demanding environment. Despite the triumph, the team remains focused on the upcoming clash with the Vodacom Bulls. 

The history of Connacht's tours in South Africa reveals a notable success rate. Their inaugural tour in December 2018 saw victories over the Cheetahs and Southern Kings. 

The team returned in March 2020, securing a win against the Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. After a three-year hiatus, Connacht's April 2022 visit resulted in a triumphant victory over the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg. 

Now, Connacht faces the daunting task of challenging the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, known for being a fortress for the home team, especially against sides in the BKT URC from the Northern Hemisphere. The Bulls have maintained an impressive 13-game winning streak at home against teams from the north since the 2021-2022 season. 

The Vodacom Bulls' recent dominant performances, including a 63-12 victory over Scarlets in the season opener, underscore the formidable challenge Connacht faces.

The Bulls, led by coach Jake White, have displayed offensive prowess, scoring over 60 points in consecutive matches against European teams. 

As the teams prepare to clash in warm weather conditions, Bulls fullback Devon Williams anticipates a tough battle. Williams acknowledges Connacht's ability to exploit specific areas of the game and emphasizes the impact of heat on play. He anticipates the visitors deploying strategic tactics to adapt to the conditions. 

“When we are overseas, they know how to target certain areas [of our game], and I think it’s the same when they come here. It’s going to be a bit of a dogfight,” Williams said. “There’s certain areas of the game they can target to slow us down because the heat definitely plays a huge role here, and I definitely think they’ll have something up their sleeves to change the game a little bit in their favor. 

“But [the conditions] open up more opportunities to throw the ball around, and if we can speed up the tempo, it’ll be difficult for them to keep up in the heat and with the altitude."

With temperatures expected to reach around 30 degrees Celsius, Connacht must navigate the challenges of the weather and altitude to maintain their strong record in South Africa. 

The clash at Loftus Versfeld promises an exciting encounter, as Connacht aims to build on its recent success and conquer the historically formidable home ground of the Vodacom Bulls.