Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

‘Stormers not our bogey team’ insists Bulls’ Jake White ahead of North-South derby

Five of the Stormers' seven wins over the Bulls were on home soil in Cape Town, while they have beaten them twice in Pretoria.

The high flying Bulls are set to welcome the improving Stormers to Loftus Versfeld next week for another eagerly anticipated North-South derby in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

As always the conversation is set to shift to whether the Bulls can finally break their duck in the competition against the Stormers, who have won all seven of the matches played between them over the past two and a half seasons.

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This leads many to believe that the Cape side are the Pretoria team’s bogey outfit, however Director of Rugby Jake White firmly denied that after his team’s URC win over the Lions at Ellis Park over the past weekend.

‘Not our bogey team’

“It’s not our bogey team. I read a great article the other day – I don’t think the Sharks have beaten the Stormers since 2015, yet all we write about is how many times the Bulls have lost to the Stormers. So it’s definitely not a bogey team,” said White.

Five of the Stormers’ seven wins over the Bulls were on home soil in Cape Town, while only two of the seven games have been won by more than seven points, with the rest all going down to the wire.

Five of the wins have come in the competition’s league phase, while the Stormers clinched an 18-13 win in the inaugural URC season finale, and won their quarterfinal clash last season 33-21, which is the biggest winning margin so far.

Their most recent clash saw the Stormers come out 26-20 on top in an entertaining game in Cape Town in December, while the two games played at Loftus over the past two seasons saw the Cape side emerge victorious 30-26 and 23-19.

Another thriller is expected in Pretoria next weekend, especially with both teams in superb recent form and pushing their way up the URC table, with the Bulls currently third on the log and Stormers sixth.

Where the Bulls are in a better position than they were in previous seasons against the Stormers, is the successful utilisation of their squad, which has seen them use a large number of players in the URC and Champions Cup competitions this season.

Plenty of options

They will thus have plenty of options against the Stormers and will hope to put out a team that can finally break their duck against arguably their biggest rivals.

“The one thing you have got to do is change your squad (to keep players fresh). We had (Johan) Goosen, Marcell (Coetzee) and Akker (van der Merwe) on the bench (against the Lions),” explained White after the Lions win.

“That’s three (former) Springboks and maybe a year ago I would have said let’s put all of them in and hedge our bets. Let the best guys be on the field for the longest period of time.

“But now where we are playing in so many competitions in different places, one in minus two (in Europe) and one in 35 degrees (in SA) in a 3pm kick-off. You need to be open to the fact that you have to change the energy of the group.”

White continued: “That’s something I think we have done well this year. What that does is it also creates competition. No one knows who will be playing against the Stormers.

“It also sends the right message to other players. That we trust them enough to back them (in big games) and that’s something we probably haven’t been good at in the last couple of seasons.”

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