Survival of fittest at Loftus

2012-05-28 15:03

Cape Town - It may be more of a question of who burns up the quickest rather than who genuinely takes charge when old enemies the Bulls and Stormers square up in a key Super Rugby derby in Pretoria on Saturday (kick-off is at 19:10).

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The match comes in the 15th week of a competition that was regarded as gruelling even before its shift to the conference system last year and a dauntingly stretched itinerary as a result.

To extend the “Survivor SA” sort of theme, it is also scheduled immediately before new Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer names his squad for the first of three Tests against England, only placing further pressure on many of the combatants to somehow perform to optimum capability.

Unless certain players have received the proverbial quiet word in advance as to whether they will be part of the Bok plans or not, the north-south clash will serve as a final national trial to some extent – even given that the Bok mastermind probably has a strong idea already of which soldiers he favours.

It seems there will be fewer customers from the conference-leading Stormers than from either of the Sharks or Bulls in the Bok party, but a couple of head-to-head clashes could possibly yet sway Meyer’s Bok barometer.

One department that springs most forcefully to mind is the second row, for instance, where the likely Bulls pair of Flip van der Merwe and Juandre Kruger (if the latter is restored to a start at the expense of Wilhelm Steenkamp this week) come up against the media-favoured international combo of Andries Bekker and youthful but consistently stellar Eben Etzebeth.

If the Bulls pack were to collectively eclipse their Stormers counterparts at Loftus, with the locks prominent in such a scenario, the home pair’s greater knowledge of Meyer’s philosophy and tactical systems from his string-pulling time in their camp could swing sentiment ahead of the announcement.

These teams, on a more collective scale, lock horns at a time when neither can exactly be described as being on a roll, despite both being very well in the frame for favourable playoffs spots.

The Stormers have a two-point advantage over the Bulls as things stand, after 12 games each, but come off fairly grimly-compiled home wins over the Cheetahs and the Waratahs and then Saturday’s rather more clear-cut Durban loss to the Sharks than the scoreboard showed.

Their second reverse of the campaign did little to quell a suspicion that the Cape team is mentally and physically jaded after many weeks of having to eke out victories rather than deliver proper “KO” punches to several opponents.

But what of the Bulls? If it is any consolation to Saturday’s looming foes, it is not the worst time to be taking them on in their Highveld stronghold - straight off their Antipodean tour - even if it will be before a mostly hostile full house.

The three-times champions have just suffered rare, consecutive defeats, even if both of their final overseas fixtures in New Zealand, against the Highlanders and Chiefs, were close tussles that might have gone the other way with some luck.

They have had to make a particularly long haul back from the Land of the Long White Cloud for this derby, not having had the luxury some compatriot teams do these days of ending against the Force on the west coast of Australia, where the voyage back is shorter and thus not across as many time zones.

The Bulls did finish last year’s Australasian tour against the very Force in Perth, where they lost 26-21, but bounced back quite commendably in their first return game on home soil a week later, thumping the Chiefs 43-27.

In 2010, when the competition was still a shorter Super 14, the Bulls, later to become champions by beating the Stormers in the Soweto final, also lost their final match abroad 19-12 to the Reds in Brisbane, but again struck right back to demolish the Lions 51-11 at Loftus.

The last time the Bulls lost a Loftus game straight after their overseas leg, in fact, was in 2008, a forgettable season for them generally (10th-placed finishers) - they were thrashed 50-22 by the Hurricanes.

So they do have the comfort of knowing that they tend not to suffer from a damaging “tour hangover” in recent times when returning to local duty ...

Remaining games for the three SA Conference challengers:

Stormers (played 12, 50 points): Bulls (a), Lions (h), Cheetahs (a), Rebels (h).

Bulls (played 12, 48 points): Stormers (h), Cheetahs (h), Sharks (a), Lions (h).

Sharks (played 13, 45 points): Lions (a), bye, Bulls (h), Cheetahs (h).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • thefantasyrugbyscout - 2012-05-28 15:17

    The Stormers are in for a very difficult game this weekend. Week after week of hard rugby has taken its toll, it isn't called Super Rugby for nothing!

      rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-05-28 15:23

      Playing a defensive game with smaller, 7's style flair players is catching up. They should have scored more tries and tackled less for same number of wins ...

      Andrew - 2012-05-28 17:03

      Cautiously confident that that the Bulls will 3 losses in a row come Sunday morning! STORMERS FOR LIFE!!!!!

  • rinus.groeneveld.7 - 2012-05-28 15:21

    Methinks die Stomers se stoom is op... Bulls vs Sharks gaan bepaal wie bo-aan die log lê.....

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 15:30

      No s*** want Power puff Allister se game plan begin slavery te borderline. Die lat wil mos nie besef dat bonus punte belangrik is nie, ''nee manne tackle hard, verdedig, verdedig! F** julle self op vir 'n wen.'' Check die Bulls, 8 bonus punte... dit is om soos 2 games te wen sonder om eers te speel. Yello!!!!!!!!

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 15:32

      Think we will be well rested for the games after the tests!!!We play Lions,Cheetahs and Rebels!!!You ladies still gotta face the Sharks in the tank!!!!!!

      Coetzee Swanepoel - 2012-05-28 15:39

      Stem saam met jou

      Nick - 2012-05-28 15:44

      only thing still in stormers favour sharks played 1 game more but with games vs bulls and cheetahs dit donker said it after waratahs game there is no plan and defence doesn't win you games you still need to attack to score points and their attack is as dangerous as a 15 year old chihauhau

      Stirrer - 2012-05-28 15:47

      Dirk, Dirk... 4 van die Bulls se bonuspunte kom van verlore af. Wil jy nou wragtag vir my sê dis 'n goeie strategie om 4 games te verloor net om 1 game in bonuspunte uit die deal te kry? Ek dink nie dis baie "nosel" nie.

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 16:09

      Dude ek stem, maar kyk hoe naby sit hulle aan ons en van wat ek gesien het lyk hulle spelers ook beter uitgerus. Alles hang af van 2de Junie. Ag wat worry ek eintlik? Bulle gaan 'n Tyson pull en Stormers gaan 'n Muhammad Ali pull. Bulle wil vinning gaan vir die knock out, but the Stormers will go the distance. Tight game, Stomers by 5 points or less. Soz Bulls!

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 16:17

      nuh uh! Stormers met 5 punte.

      Lance - 2012-05-28 16:27

      It will be close, but Bulls defence is weak enough to let the "Tackling Stormers" through for a few tries..

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 16:33

      Uhm... hulle het gewen... French Flyhalf? Ja, hulle het gewen omdat hulle Michalak gehad het, hy was op sy stukke gewees. Besides... jy kan nie jou eie span charm nie, jy gaan die Bulle jinx. Stormers!!!!!

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 16:51

      Hehe, jy het dit sopas erger gemaak, my ex gal was 'n gypsy. Ek weet... moenie vra nie.

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 17:01

      IS... geez hoe lank gaan dit nog aanhou? :)

      gustav.louw.12 - 2012-05-28 17:05

      Die Stormers se stoom is op?? As ek reg is het die Bulle hulle laaste twee al verloor. Wonder wie se stoom regtig op is....

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 17:06

      ok die Bulle gaan wen...

      Lance - 2012-05-29 11:46

      @ blue..Defence is not something you fix in one game. I have sent an email to the troops..Run towards Spies..he turns into Houdini when faced with the challenge of........."the tackle".

  • Johan - 2012-05-28 15:21

    Who are the Stormers? Someone please fill me in, I don't see that name on any Super rugby trophies. I'm expecting and predicting a walk in the park for the Mighty Bulls, SA's flagship team

      Jed - 2012-05-28 15:28

      We nailed you last time, we will nail you again. Stormers are still top of the S.A conference I reckon the Bulls wont see the playoff's.

      Johan - 2012-05-28 15:33

      @Vallemj How many cups? And top of the log thanks to Mark Lawrence, Craig Joubert, Idiot Plonker and now Piper.

      Ronnie - 2012-05-28 15:43

      The difference between Fact and Opinion Opinion- the "Mighty Bulls" are gonna have a walk in the park against the stormers Fact- The "Pienk Koeie" lost the last time the 2 played.

      Bossie - 2012-05-28 15:44

      @Johan- Dis rerig nou tyd om oor daardie liefdesterleurstelling van jou te kom- geen man is dit werd nie!

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 15:49

      @ Ronnie, awesome dit klink mos nou beter, ek het ophou lees op jou vorige post. Dit is 'n sport blog, nie 'n donnerse ... HAT nie. :-D

      Jed - 2012-05-28 15:50

      Jaaa Johan, Talking about Ref's, I remember that forward pass to Francois Hougaard that won you lads a title, so please before you talk about biased Ref's just remember you Lads would of won nothing without Ref's. FACT like it or not.

      Stirrer - 2012-05-28 15:50

      @ Dr Death: "I'm expecting and predicting a walk in the park for the Mighty Bulls". As a medical man, you should be well aware that you are hormonal and cannot make informed decisions while expecting.

      Ronnie - 2012-05-28 15:54

      @Dirk, point taken. Is this news24 or nuus24???????

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 15:58

      Sport 24

      Ronnie - 2012-05-28 16:02

      Thanks for that :-D

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 16:19

      Cool, TX and I'll try to stick to english next time or at least when I respond to one of your comments.

      Ronnie - 2012-05-28 16:26

      @ Dirk, please do. My afrikaans is not as awesome as the stormers, so your help is much appreciated.

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 16:27

      Doc, wat verwag jy? Ou Peyper lyk verskriklik skeef, daai pass het 7m agtertoe gelyk vir hom.

      John - 2012-05-28 16:50

      They are the side leading the SA conference and 2nd on the overall log. Take your head out your ass for a minute & google S15 leader board.

      Johan - 2012-05-28 16:56

      @dom John And what has leading the log mid-season ever done for the poor Stormers? ZERO cups in 16 years, how pathetic

  • Lionel - 2012-05-28 15:24

    I hope none of these youngsters that are in the Bok squad will hold back Saturday because they are scared of injuries.Give it one last go my team before the break.

      Johan - 2012-05-28 15:28

      @Lionel Before "we" break you wanted to say. But then again, that happened last Sat, downward spiral in full swung now

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 15:30

      Thats what all you Bulls supporters said the last time we met at Newlands and look what happened!!!!!

      Johan - 2012-05-28 15:32

      @Lionel You Stormers told us for 16 years now how THIS YEAR you taking the cup. JOKERS OF WORLD RUGBY

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 15:35

      Raven,ek praat eintlik van julle manne wat bang is hulle gaan seerkry:):)

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 15:44

      Raven a win is a win,we took home 4 log points,Bulls 1 for losing by more than 7 Oh yes,Bekker will win his share of ball and steal a few from you guys as well,is Flip yellow card playing???

      Bossie - 2012-05-28 15:47

      @Johan- ek vra verskoning..wie is ek om te judge?? Niemand weet presies deur watse pyn jy gaan op die oomblik.. Let it out big guy, let it out..

      Roy - 2012-05-28 15:51

      @ Johan fetch oubaas Stormer se honne!!! Thats a good boy now sit!!!!!

      Johan - 2012-05-28 16:00

      Dankie Bossie

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 16:02

      Tokkie,julle is lekker grootmond voor die game,ek like dit,net soos laaskeer op Nuweland en se my weer wat was die score???

      Bossie - 2012-05-28 16:12

      @Johan-by the way- die Bernard mannetjie klink nogal oulik,maar moet net nie te vinnig te veel verwag nie- vat jou tyd.. inbox my weer sodra jy weer met hom gechat het.

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 16:25

      Tokkie,ons het rede om groot bek te wees voor die Bulle game,ons het die bragging rights!!! ''N span pitch nie op en sommer wen nie op Loftus nie"',wat het gebeur toe julle die Blues gespeel it,was dit ook n ligte gly???? Tokkie,wees eerlik toe die Bulle played 11 en lost 11 het jy hulle ondersteun,ek doubt it baie!!!Jy en jou maatjies kryp net uit hulle gatte voor die Stormers games en as julle verloor verdwyn julle net so gou.

      Johan - 2012-05-28 16:30

      @Lionel Of onthou jy 1997 toe die WP/Stormers glad nie vir die Super kompetisie kon kwalifiseer nie. Hoe het jy hulle toe ondersteun?

      Tokolos - 2012-05-28 16:33

      Lionel.... Gaan lees bietjie na elke game. JY is die een wat elke Maandag (soos Jason, Saffa Cat ens.) hier kom storietjies praat. Naweke (game time) is julle nerens te vinde nie. As jy mooi gaan kyk sal jy my altyd daar sien.... wen of verloor. Dis die lewe, "you win some, you lose some". En ja... ek support die Bulle al sou hulle vir 18 jaar niks wen nie.

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 16:38

      Tokkie,naweke is familie en vriende tyd,nie sport24 nie,ek het n lewe dankie!!!!!!!

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 16:55

      But Lionel, we are all friends on Sport 24.

      Lionel - 2012-05-28 16:58

      @Dirk,but of course we are but there are friends and their are friends,catch my drift:):)

      Johan - 2012-05-28 17:07

      @Lionel Dear friend Lionel, you still have not answered my question about 1997.

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 17:17

      Lionel, as ek die een mag antwoord. uhm hm... Ons het WP support in die Currie Cup en hulle het gewen! Useless brokkie info... Die Bulle was 5de op die log.

      Johan - 2012-05-28 17:49

      @Dirk Kan jy asb by die opderwerp hou, ons praat Super rugby. Wat het met die WP/Stormer kabouters gebeur in die 1997 Superrugby reeks?

      Dirk - 2012-05-28 18:17

      Jammer Doc. Hulle was toeskouers gewees???

      Johan - 2012-05-28 19:13

      @Dirk Vir die ander spanne, want die Stormers konnie kwalifiseer vir die toernooi nie. Ek help maar net vir vllamj bietjie uit wat so graag verwys daarna dat niks erger is as om laaste op die log te eindig nie. Daar is egter een ding: Om glad nie te kwalifiseer vir die toernooi nie: Stormers 1997

  • Coetzee Swanepoel - 2012-05-28 15:38

    Ek reken die Bulls gaan hierdie een vat. Te veel goed van die veld af by Stormers. Boonop lyk dit of hulle afplat. Bulls ook nie goed gespeel nie, maar Loftus doen net iets vir hulle.

  • Nick - 2012-05-28 15:40

    bulls will be fresher and should win comfortably stormers have a very long injury list and and a coach that is all defence i'd rather defend like the lions and score tries like the sharks/bulls FACT defence is only 1 part of the bigger picture like it showed on saturday once they go behind there is no coming back there has never been any plan maybe vodacom cup coach dobson must come help out since those guys scored loads of tries and stormers can't steal any ill bet bulls will play the kick n chase game with the stormers not knowing what to do and just kick it back biggest difference between the two teams most of the time steyn or hougie kicks something happens stormers its kick and pray for a miracle

      Lance - 2012-05-28 16:31

      ...and the miracle usually arrives..

  • Deon - 2012-05-28 15:41

    The weekend games might decide the winner of the group but the cheetahs have also been a bogey team for some in the past. History could reapeat itself.

      Tokolos - 2012-05-28 16:03

      Watch the Lions kick it up... They have nothing to lose. Don't write them off yet. They have some pride to restore even if it's way too late. They might just surprise a team or two. Most their games were touch and go. For a team that only won 1 game but have 15 log points it says something. Their losses were not runaway victories and could have gone either way.

  • Provence - 2012-05-28 16:02

    The stormers deserve to be where they are. They have played gallantly, worked hard, tackled like demons and did the possible. But alas, all the possibles are still not good enough. Saturday at Loftus is war. The Stormers are on the rocks with their backs to deep blue 'mooiste kaap' and are heading for a murderous afternoon. What makes things worse, i am a Stormers supporter. I have no option but will go down shouting Stormers!!!!

      Stirrer - 2012-05-28 16:29

      It ain't over till it's over.

  • elspeth.hassall - 2012-05-28 16:07

    Making excuses already! Shame! GO SHARKS!!!

  • Stephen - 2012-05-28 16:12

    Lot of arrogant knuckle dragging Bulls supporters here. They were saying the same thing before the game at Newlands

      Johan - 2012-05-28 16:32

      Suck on it Stephen! The downward spiral has begun, like we've gotten used to the last 16 years

      Stephen - 2012-05-28 17:30

      @Johan, I agree the Bulls are on a downward spiral. You have Bulls supporters on here over-hyping every single fat sloping forehead plodder that comes into the Bulls team

      Eben - 2012-05-28 17:34

      You struggled to a 3 point winning margin in your own back yard. Lets se how intimmidating Loftus we be!!!!

  • Hans - 2012-05-28 17:41

    Haven't done the math, think a Bulls loss is better for my Sharks, but my heart says Go Bulls. Think Stormers have blown all their energy at Mavericks. Stormers really lucky...a give away 7 points between Fredi and mostly Ndigane, and then the forward pass try awarded by Mr "I didn't see it" Ref - seems refs battle to see pre-try infringements by visiting sides at Kingspark.

      Jason - 2012-05-29 11:21

      Bulls supporters shouldn't talk about the ref helping any team win a game....lets go back to your game against the Brumbies, a certain knock on and disallowed try comes to against the Rebels as well...lots of dodgy decisions there...

  • WernerZA - 2012-05-28 17:53

    Gaan lekker wees om die bloubokke te sien jol teen die stormers... Miskien sommer vir hulle n paar agterlyn bewegings wys. Dit gaan soos blou bul varsity wees! Lekkerrrrrrr.

  • Jason - 2012-05-29 11:25

    Gonna be a great game...Hopefully if the Bulls win, their supporters will be good winners and less arrogant. If they lose they'll admit defeat, congratulate, leave the excuses and move on. Judging from the mass of arrogant comments on this story...wishful thinking...!!! C'mon Stormers...!! Our time is now...!!

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