There have been United Rugby Championship games where both the Bulls and Stormers have been able to drive buses through the opposition defence, but when last season’s finalists meet in a massive derby in Cape Town on Friday night, a tight spectacle is expected by the visitors.
Both teams were among the leading try-scorers last season and have thrived on counter-attack, with exciting back threes carrying the ball back to great effect. But Bulls fullback Wandisile Simelane said on Tuesday that he expects swarming defence to be a key feature of Friday’s humdinger.
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“Any South African derby is always going to be difficult because we really study each other well,” Simelane said. “Games like these are great to be part of and it’s where you test yourself.
“I assume it’s going to be a tight match, a momentum game and putting points on the board will be crucial. I expect the defences to rush up on the faster guys, but opportunities will still come.
“If we don’t get five or six chances like usual, then there will be one or two and we have to make sure we make them really count. It’s about how well we execute in those one or two moments,” he added.
“Momentum will be very vital, we can’t throw the ball away, keeping it for a few more phases will be very beneficial. We mustn’t throw 50/50 miracle passes.”
While the romantics would love the match to be decided by a Simelane sidestep or a piece of Manie Libbok magic, the reality is it is the forwards who will have the key roles; from the tremendous platform laid by evergreen Stormers props Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff, to the bruising gainline presence of Elrigh Louw and Marco van Staden that can leave opponents purple and pink.
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Some big oaks have departed the Bulls kraal, but the shrubs that are coming up in their place show great promise. In the white-heat of battle, the 24-year-old Simelane knows being able to control and manage the contest will be crucial.
“Hopefully we will be calm enough to control the game and our game-managers can put us in the right positions. We love having ball-in-hand on attack, using our natural instincts, but there is a thin line between relying on natural instinct and building pressure through being more conservative.”