Vodacom Stormers cannot turn cheek

PUBLISHED: April 12, 2007

The Vodacom Stormers cannot turn the other cheek when they tackle the Bulls in a Vodacom Super 14 match against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

That was the message from coach Kobus van der Merwe to his charges this week.

The Stormers take on the Bulls in their second game on home soil after their return from Australia and New Zealand and will be buoyed by the convincing victory over the Lions the past Saturday.

Van der Merwe, however, is fully aware that the Bulls ­-­ who are still in the hunt for a semi-final berth – will be a completely different ballgame.

“I don’t think you can ask any rugby player to turn the other cheek. I think the Sharks got blown away in the first 20 minutes of their game and I think that’s got more to do with the standard Bulls approach,” explained the coach.

“They normally come out psyched up and fired-up and they want to try and blow you off the park in the first 20 minutes. If you can weather that storm you’ve done well and then you can make a game of it.

“But if you are down 15, 20 points after 20 minutes at Loftus it is very difficult to come back. I think all the teams realise that, so it is important how we stand up in the first 20 minutes, not only physically, but also how tactically accurate we can play and how clever we are about it.

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

The Crusaders showed how to beat the Bulls and Van der Merwe took a few pointers from that game. “They forced the Bulls a bit out of their comfort zone in terms of not giving them as many lineouts in the game and kicking a lot of the ball downfield and then showing commitment and patience on defence thereafter.

“They were very calm, waited for opportunities and turned balls over at crucial times and then scored from there. I think that is a key area. They didn’t make many mistakes in their own territory.

“We realise the Bulls play a game that is based on mauling and kicking penalties, so discipline is very important.”

Van der Merwe said the team will miss Springbok centre Jean de Villiers, who is being rested in terms of an agreement with the national coach Jake White. He has full confidence in the replacement Corné Uys though.

“It will obviously have a big effect. It is never nice to rest one of your Springboks and one of the guys that have performed well. But then again Corne’s played some really good rugby in the Currie Cup and he has moved back to his favourite position.

“Him and De Wet played together in the Currie Cup, so it is not a new combination, but as I said we’ve got a commitment to the World Cup and the Springboks as well and we don’t want it to happen. We’ve got three home games left and we don’t want to be forced to rest him then.”

The coach said the Bulls’ kicking game is one of their strengths, but he was confident that his kickers would be able to match those of the opposition.

“They put you in your own territory and you find it very difficult to get out of there, with guys like Fourie (du Preez) and Dereck (Hougaard) who can kick tactically very well.

“Conrad (Jantjes) makes a bit difference for us there with the distance of his boot, but Peter (Grant) has improved a lot. I think Peter’s tactical kicking has really improved this season and he’s getting a lot more distance.

“We’ll see on Saturday, but the ball does travel a lot further up there. I am very happy with the way Peter’s progressed throughout the season. He will be up for it on Saturday.”