Super14 final is the Bulls to lose

Expect nothing new from the Bulls when they defend their title against the Stormers in the Super 14 final at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday.


Also forget that it will be a dour battle for honours, although there will be patches of play where both sides will vie to imprint their supremacy up front.


After all, good ball is what the game breakers want and for that the hard slog is needed. It is precisely here, up front and particularly in the front five, that the Bulls are likely to have the edge.


There have been plaudits from the south about the growth in the Stormers’ front five this season – and rightfully so.


Whether the Stormers’ scrum, pushed back on a number of occasions by the Waratahs in the semi-final last weekend, and their numbers to the ruck have made the necessary strides to control the forward exchanges, have to be seen.


Harder work from the Stormers flanks in assisting their props in the scrum will be needed on the evidence of the Waratahs match – and that in itself will blunt one of their main weapons, their loose trio, to a large extent.


The biggest attacking game breaker in South Africa is arguably the Stormers’ acquisition from the Lions, Jaque Fourie.


How he was overlooked for a starting test berth by Peter de Villiers last year in favour of Adi Jacobs defies logic – and Fourie is the man the Bulls will have to watch more than anybody else.


However, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke and his coaching team will have noticed that the Stormers backs, when operating under pressure on their halfbacks, are not that sharp – and Dewaldt Duvenage can expect more than his share of attention on Saturday.


His service – much quicker than Springbok Ricky January’s – must get a lot of the credit for the sharp performances of the Stormers’ backline.


Of course, this is always the ploy by an opposing side, but the difference on Saturday could be that the Bulls have just the forwards to implement that strategy successfully.


After a series of rather lukewarm performances by the Bulls Springbok halfback pairing of Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn in the early part of the competition, they have again started dominating.


Their execution of the Bulls’ tried and tested game plan is crucial to the success of their side and the outcome of the match. They will simply have to get those up-and-unders to come down just outside the Stormers 22 – and have the chasers there for first-time tackling.


If those tackles are missed, the visiting runners like Bryan Habana, Gio Aplon, Joe Pietersen, Juan de Jongh and of course Fourie could create havoc.


There will be some wonderful duels: the two centre combinations of Fourie and De Jongh, both brilliant on attack against two great defenders like Jaco Pretorius and Wynand Olivier; young upstart Gerhard van den Heever against Bryan Habana; Andries Bekker and Victor Matfield in the lineouts


There will also be the battle of the two sets of loose forwards with their different balance in strengths; and of course the tactical kicking and also the conversion of tries and penalties.


A final is largely about mental attitude and confidence.


Both these psychological factors impact on the calm needed for execution of the systems put in place during the season. And it is here that the Bulls, with their greater experience, have the edge.


The factor that could, however, sink them is too much confidence. A loss of focus at any stage – something the Bulls have been prone to this season – could upset the applecart and with it the whole season’s hard work.


Everything considered the bookies are probably right in making the Bulls 1-2 favourites.


This is not a match the Stormers will easily win, but it could well be a match that the Bulls can lose.

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