Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

‘Credit to the Stormers, but it’s time we focused on us,’ says Bulls skipper Nortje

The derby between the Bulls and Stormers has become one of the biggest franchise games in world rugby.

The Bulls’ full focus is on themselves and not on them breaking their 7-0 losing run against the Stormers when the two sides clash in their United Rugby Championship (URC) North-South derby at Loftus on Saturday.

Captain Ruan Nortje admitted that their focus in recent times has been too much on their opposition and not enough on them making sure they do what they need to do to get over the line against their biggest rivals.

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“You have to give full credit to the Stormers. They’ve been good the last seven games that they have beaten us and that’s just how it is,” said Nortje.

“We have to focus on our game. It’s going to be an awesome North-South derby and I can’t wait for it. But it is just another game for us. The Stormers are a quality team and we know they are coming to get us so we have to be ready.

“I think in the past we have put a bit too much emphasis on the Stormers game. We have had the mindset of ‘It’s the Stormers, we can’t let them get another one over us’.

“But now it is about focusing on our game, doing what we can do well, seeing where we can put them under pressure and we will then take it from there.”

Down to the wire

Most of those seven defeats have come by less than seven points, with the games going right down to the wire, including their recent match in Cape Town where the hosts won 26-20 and Nortje believes his team are not far off that elusive win.

“We felt we were well prepared for the previous game in Cape Town. In the 77th minute we got a lineout on the 5m and it could have gone any way,” explained Nortje.

“So we know we are there. Against the Stormers we tend to lose a bit of composure at times. So I think our game management needs to be a little better when we play them.”

The derby between the two rivals has become one of the biggest franchise games in world rugby and Nortje hopes to be involved once again this weekend.

“I get goose bumps when talking about it. It is just such an awesome game and I think worldwide it is one of the biggest derbies. If I get an opportunity to play it will be a massive honour for me. Hopefully we can get a full Loftus, because that would be so special,” said Nortje.

Good start

Another important factor for the Bulls going into the Stormers game will be getting off to a good start, which the Bulls have struggled with in recent games.

Despite winning both cross-Jukskei derbies against the Lions, the Bulls got off to slow starts in both matches and against a stronger and more ruthless team like the Stormers that could prove costly.

“Our focus has to be better. We talk about it before a match but then we still give away silly penalties early in the game, which puts us under pressure,” admitted Nortje.

“It isn’t something massive, but I think it’s important for us to get in that headspace of completely focusing at all times and not losing any composure and focus in certain parts of your game especially when you’re tired.”

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