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    Allister: Bulls better this year

    2013-02-18 18:45

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town - Some might wish to interpret it as a deceptive charm offensive in the week of a tantalising old north-south derby, but Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is talking up the Bulls’ prospects for Super Rugby 2013.

    The long-time fierce rivals meet in the opening round of SA conference hostilities at Loftus on Friday (19:10 kick-off).

    At a media briefing on Monday Coetzee, who guided the Stormers to conference supremacy again last year, told Sport24 he expected the Bulls to improve on last year’s performance, where they finished fifth overall and level on log points with the sixth-placed Sharks - all three teams thus made the playoffs cut.

    He said he was not subscribing to the view among some pundits that the two coastal teams represented this country’s best chance of title success this year.

    “The Bulls will always, always be in the mix. They’re the only (South African) franchise to have won this competition, and three times.

    “They’re a very proud side and have a quality pack, plus (flyhalf) Morne Steyn is already at his best in pre-season with his kicking out of hand and for poles.

    “They have a settled squad, too ... I don’t know their side yet (it is due to be revealed on Tuesday - Sport24) but I’m not expecting a lot of changes in their team and I could probably run through it now.”

    Coetzee then proceeded to more or less do exactly that, outlining which Bulls combinations he expected his troops to face in various positions.

    “I don’t know how people can say that the coastal sides will be favourites; this is the first game of the season and we’ll get a better idea as we go on.

    “They’re playing in front of their home crowd and it’s a genuinely tough ask for us - whoever plays at Loftus is the underdog, because of the Bulls’ history (of success) at the venue.

    “You can’t just look at where they placed last season and write them off as result ... never. It will be a massive, massive derby game.”

    A former member of the Springbok coaching staff, Coetzee is also well versed in the strategic qualities of Bok lock legend Victor Matfield.

    “They have an extra arrow in their quiver with Victor, who is now the lineout and attack coach for them, so they will know what to do - there are certain things which Victor brings to a side which I know about well; they will be executing better.

    “Yes, they will be a better side than last year ... much better.”

    Asked how he felt about tackling the Bulls on their traditionally fast Loftus pitch, Coetzee said: “Yes, it’s nice to play there. Just the underfoot conditions; it’s a nice firm field and also dry, provided that we don’t get any storms over Pretoria. It lends itself to good handling.”

    Weather forecasts suggest pleasantly warm and rain-free conditions on Friday evening.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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