Jake White may have his first-choice Bulls side back against a Stormers team that is missing a trio of injured Springboks, but he still believes the home team will be the favourites in their United Rugby Championship derby in Cape Town on Friday night.
The Stormers will be without Evan Roos, their talismanic eighthman, exciting young lock Salmaan Moerat and experienced scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, while White on Thursday named a Bulls team with nine Springboks in the starting line-up and two more on the bench.
But White said he did not read too much into who the Stormers are missing.
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“I don’t think it’s a weaker Stormers team, nothing has changed. Our team is still young and in evolution, we’re still where we were last year – we’re developing,” White said.
“I like to think we’re playing better rugby than last year because of the added experience, but we are still a young team building together. We’ve not suddenly become a powerhouse senior team.
“If you look at the Stormers tight five, they are each a couple of years older than ours when you look man-for-man. And John Dobson has been coaching them for a long time.
“So I think they’re favourites. But it’s fantastic that the North/South derby has its aura back, the challenge is healthy and hopefully we do the rivalry justice,” White said.
Things have switched around dramatically from the old rendition of the derby when “10-man” Northern Transvaal relied on a robust, hardcore pack and Western Province, who had a ruthless backline, almost had a bounty out on flyhalf Naas Botha.
Now it is the Stormers who have the grizzled old hard men up front and the Bulls who have the exciting runners in the backs. Although the intensity of this derby could be like a Test match, White said he was hopeful there would still be bountiful space for his dashers.
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“I like to believe there will still be space for them. These are good players who have opened up holes in Test rugby. I’m very proud of the good attacking backs we have, Chris Rossouw has worked really hard with them and we’ve had three guys called up for national duty this year, so I guess it is a bit like an old Western Province backline.
“We’ll need to be accurate when we have the ball and score some tries, because we’re not going to win by just keeping them out of our 22.
“But we do also have to be good enough not to give them entries into our 22 because I don’t see them going away from scrumming for penalties, kicking to the corner and then mauling for tries,” White said.
Kurt-Lee Arendse, Cornal Hendricks, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Canan Moodie, Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier, Elrigh Louw, Cyle Brink, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje (c), Ruan Vermaak, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp. Bench -Bismarck du Plessis, Simphiwe Matanzima, Sebastian Lombard, Janko Swanepoel, Nizaam Carr, Zak Burger, Chris Smit, Stravino Jacobs