Beware the early Bulls blitz

Matching the Bulls in the set pieces and weather the early storm. This is the key to victory for the Stormers when they face their arch rivals in a crunch Super 14 match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Both coach Kobus van der Merwe and captain Luke Watson spoke of the need for the Stormers to be “smarter” than the Bulls, rather than trying to beat them at their own game – which will required a head-on, physical approach.

Watson felt the key is in ensuring you can get quality first phase possession, without getting into a dogfight with the Bulls.

“I believe the decider will be in first phase possession and what you do thereafter,” The Stormers captain said.

Van der Merwe said the key would be to ride out the early storm and then play your own game.

“The standard Bulls approach is that they normally come out psyched up and fired up. “They want to try and blow you off the park in the first 20 minutes and I think if you can weather that storm you’ve done well … then you can make a game of it,” Van der Merwe said.

“However, if you’re down 15 or 20 points after 20 minutes at Loftus then it is very difficult to come back.

“All the teams know that and I think it is important how we stand up in the first 20 minutes, physically, but also being tactically accurate.

“It is about how clever we can play. It is not just the physical confrontation and the domination of the contact points that are important, it is also how calm you can stay under pressure.”

Watson admitted that the Bulls present a huge physical challenge, but agreed with his coach that you have to outsmart the Pretoria outfit.

“The majority of the Bulls’ game revolves around their tight five and their first phase possession – the scrums, the line-outs and the structures they play thereafter,” Watson said.

“Obviously it is going to be a tough competition this weekend for our tight five, to see if they stand up to that.

“However, first and foremost our major concern is to nullify them at first phase … to see if we can disrupt them at line-out time, with Gerrie [Britz] and Andries [Bekker] that have been contesting exceptionally well. Right throughout this season they have been getting better and better at the line-out.

“That [the line-outs] at the moment is not a concern for us. We believe that we have the ability to disrupt a little bit of their ball. Obviously they’re going up against Bakkies [Botha] and Victor [Matfield] two very good locks.

“Then, at scrum time also, if we can disrupt their scrum in anyway possible and manage to slightly spoil their ball and prevent their execution from being as precise as they would like, then that will be a good start for us and a good foundation we can start attacking from.

“We’re not saying we want to take them on head-on in the physicalities and all that. There comes a time when you have to match them physically and there comes a time when you have to dominate the contact points – for us we want to keep our wits about us.”

Van der Merwe said the Crusaders, who recorded a 32-10 win over the Bulls, showed what it required to dismantle the men from Pretoria.

“The Crusaders forced the Bulls out of their comfort zone by not giving them as many line-out balls and kicking the ball downfield. After that you require absolute patience and commitment on defence.

“They remained calm, waited for their opportunities and turned ball over at crucial stages – scoring from those turnovers. That other crucial factor is that they [the Crusaders] didn’t make many mistakes inside their own area.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital 

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