Bulls must steer clear of Stormers’ ‘head games’ in massive URC derby

FILE - Ruan Nortje in action for the Bulls during a United Rugby Championship game against the Stormers. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

FILE - Ruan Nortje in action for the Bulls during a United Rugby Championship game against the Stormers. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 1, 2024


Captain Ruan Nortjé has warned his Bulls team not to make Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown at Loftus Versfeld too big of an occasion.

The Pretoria side are desperate to stop a seven-match losing streak against the Capetonians increasing to eight when they run out on their hallowed home turf for the 5.05pm kick-off tomorrow.

But sometimes chasing a victory can get in the way of the process to achieve it, which has been evident in many of the Bulls’ defeats to their great rivals.

Coach Jake White said this week that his team have yet to play their best rugby against John Dobson’s side, and there isn’t a better time to actually do that than tomorrow.

The Bulls have made pleasing progress this season in all aspects of their game to be in third position on the URC log, while also reaching April’s Champions Cup knockout round.

But they need to get rid of the Stormers bogey this weekend to gain real belief that they can win a trophy this season.

“In the previous games, we felt that we were also very well prepared ... That game in Cape Town (in December, when the Stormers won 26-20), 77th minute we got a line-out on the five-metre line, and it could’ve gone any way,” Nortjé said.

“Against the Stormers, we tend to lose a bit of composure, so our game management will have to be better when we play them.

“Sometimes in the past we put too much on that specific game. It’s for us to look at them as just another side, focus on our game and what we can do well and where we can put them under pressure, and take it from there.

“It’s important for us to not get into too much head games and too much stuff in the media. We must put all those things aside, and focus on the game and what we’ve got to do.

“Our focus has got to be better. We talk about it before a game, but then we still give away silly penalties early in the game, which puts us under pressure.

“I don’t think it’s something massive. It’s important for us to clear that head-space of keeping our focus at all times, and not losing our composure in certain parts of the game – especially when we are tired.”

Nortjé will have a personal point to prove as well in his No 5 lock battle with the Stormers’ Ruben van Heerden, with both men having been included in the 43-man group for next week’s Springbok alignment camp in Cape Town.

The Bulls skipper has enjoyed working with new forwards coach and ex-Bok lock Andries Bekker this season, and will look to put pressure on the Stormers line-out tomorrow.

“He has been massive for me personally – it’s just a privilege to work with him,” Nortjé said about Bekker.

“Since I was a little boy growing up, I looked at him playing ... Obviously he wasn’t playing for a team that I loved, but I always thought that he was an amazing player.

“He has had a massive impact on me personally. He helps me a lot with the small things in my game – especially my line-outs – and I am definitely feeling that it is working for me ... just movements and small things to make me better.

“Just to the pack of forwards as a whole, he just brings so much energy, and the whole pack wants to play for him and not disappoint him.

“Credit to the Stormers – that’s all you can give them. They have been good, and in the last seven games, they beat us ... That’s how it is.

“We’ve got to focus on our game, and it’s going to be an awesome northsouth derby, and I can’t wait for it.”


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