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    Derby: Bulls’ modern edge

    2012-05-29 12:40
    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Statistics can be deceptive, suggesting as they do that the SA conference-topping Stormers have no special reason to fear their visit to Loftus on Saturday for another massive Super Rugby showdown with the Bulls.

    After all, a record of four wins to three in the competition by the visitors at the Pretoria stronghold could be used as firm grounds to submit that the Cape side fare surprisingly productively there.

    Their latest win at Loftus also comes as recently as the last clash at that stadium: the Stormers ran out 23-13 winners in the away fixture last year, the first in which the conference system, featuring a double round of derbies, entered the equation.

    On a damp night, the Stormers’ discipline and unyielding defence – not to mention an unusually dominant scrum – were instrumental in the victory, although the Bulls did bounce back in late-campaign to snatch the Newlands return 19-16 even though the host team went on to be losing semi-finalists to the Crusaders and the Bulls failed by a whisker to make the playoffs.

    Overall, in 17 encounters since the outset of the competition, the Stormers have triumphed nine times to the Bulls’ seven, with one draw at Newlands in 2000.

    Yet the history at Super Rugby level between these franchises can best, perhaps for the purposes of greater accuracy, be split into two distinct phases.

    The first is pre-2005, when the Bulls simply could not buy a win over these foes despite an eternally fierce rivalry in the domestic Currie Cup.

    Apart from the lone stalemate already mentioned, the Stormers prevailed in all six other clashes between 1999 and 2005.

    But it was in that last-named year that fortunes began to swing – and the trend started particularly violently.

    Not only did the Bulls break their Super Rugby duck against the old enemy at Loftus, but they did so in record-breaking fashion, via a 75-14 result that will forever be etched as one of the most shameful games in the archives back at Newlands.

    The Stormers were blitzed by nine tries to two in the sort of game where seasoned Bulls supporters would doubtless love to crow: “I was there.”

    There are likely to be five survivors from that fixture on view this Saturday (19:10 kick-off) with one of them, Bryan Habana, then a Bulls player but nowadays sporting Stormers gear.

    He registered two of the touchdowns en route to the rout; also in the Bulls run-on XV were Akona Ndungane and flyhalf Morne Steyn, who amassed a hefty 35 points with all nine conversions, a try of his own and four penalties.

    Relative greenhorns for the Stormers then, but very much senior personnel in 2012, were now acting captain Jean de Villiers and big second-rower Andries Bekker.

    That match was the catalyst for the Bulls going a long way toward reversing their losing habit against the Stormers: they boast seven Super Rugby wins to three from 2005 and beyond, including the final at the unusual venue of Orlando Stadium, Soweto, in 2010.

    In both 2006 and 2007, the Bulls kept their foot fairly firmly on the Stormers’ throat, with further thumping wins where they posted more than 40 points.

    Since then, Super Rugby meetings have been almost unanimously much closer.

     Although the Stormers won 38-10 at Newlands in the very last round-robin match of 2010, a fortnight before their clash in the final, that one hardly counts because the Bulls – already safely berthed in a home semi-final, to be against the Crusaders – put out a decidedly second-string XV.

    Here is the complete history of Super Rugby clashes between the pair:

    Conference format:

    2012: Stormers 20 Bulls 17 (Newlands)

    2011: Bulls 13 Stormers 23 (Loftus), Stormers 16 Bulls 19 (Newlands)

    Old format (home team listed first):

    2010: Stormers 38 Bulls 10

    2010 (final, Soweto): Bulls 25 Stormers 17

    2009: Bulls 14 Stormers 10

    2008: Stormers 9 Bulls 16

    2007: Bulls 49 Stormers 12

    2006: Stormers 10 Bulls 43

    2005: Bulls 75 Stormers 14

    2004: Stormers 25 Bulls 11

    2003: Bulls 24 Stormers 27

    2002: Stormers 31 Bulls 27

    2001: Bulls 23 Stormers 34

    2000: Stormers 19 Bulls 19

    1999: Bulls 19 Stormers 42

    1998: Stormers 35 Bulls 18

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