The Vodacom Bulls will be searching for their first win at Newlands since 2011 when they face the Stormers on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
What was the rugby world like when the Bulls last beat the Stormers at Newlands?
Peter de Villiers was still coaching the Springboks, while Graham Henry was at the helm of the All Blacks. From a Super Rugby point of view, the Bulls and Stormers were the top teams in the tournament, having contested the final in Soweto the season before.
Duane Vermeulen was still part of the Stormers side in 2011. Conrad Jantjes, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie and Andries Bekker had yet to retire, while Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Ricky Januarie, Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh were playing their rugby in South Africa.
Victor Matfield was leading a Bulls side that boasted other World Cup-winners such as Gary Botha and Wynand Olivier. That was an era in which Pierre Spies was preferred to Vermeulen as the Boks’ first-choice No 8.
Those were the days when the Bulls were kings, and when the Stormers were perennial contenders for the Super Rugby crown. The Boks were still among the top three Test sides in the world.
Thanks to a try by Francois Hougaard and Morné Steyn’s four penalties and a conversion, the Bulls won 19-16 against the Stormers at Newlands.
Who could have predicted that the Bulls would fail to win again at the Cape Town stronghold over the ensuing seven seasons? While the Stormers have declined in that period, they have managed to win 10 of the last 16 north-south derbies.
Handré Pollard was still at school in Paarl – and probably supporting the Stormers – the last time the Bulls won a Super Rugby game at Newlands. This coming Saturday, Pollard will lead a Bulls side well placed to end the franchise’s long losing streak.
In 2015, the Bulls came within one drop goal of breaking the Newlands curse. Pollard had time to strike the ball, but could not clear the formidable frame of Vermeulen, who had rushed off the line to charge the kick down and save the game for the hosts.
Vermeulen was a key player for the Bulls when the two rivals clashed in the first round of the 2019 season. The coming north-south derby, however, will mark the Bok No 8’s first game against his old side at Newlands.
The Bulls hammered the Stormers 40-3 in the previous fixture played at Loftus. They should take some confidence from the performance, and from their most recent win against the Reds.
They’re coming off a bye and should not want for physicality when they line up against the Stormers this Saturday.
The Cape side finished their four-game tour of Australasia with a morale-boosting win against the Rebels. The Stormers were given a reality check the following week, though, when they lost to the Brumbies at Newlands.
Robbie Fleck will be looking to his senior men to inspire a turnaround this Saturday. The side have struggled for consistency, especially at the set pieces, collisions and breakdowns.
Fleck’s Stormers made headlines for all the wrong reasons when they visited Loftus in round one, and could do so again if they fail to pitch for a showdown against the old enemy at Newlands.
NORTH-SOUTH DERBY SINCE 2011
Bulls beat Stormers 19-16 at Newlands
Stormers beat Bulls 20-17 at Newlands
Stormers beat Bulls 19-14 at Loftus Versfeld
Bulls beat Stormers 25-17 at Loftus Versfeld
Stormers beat Bulls 30-13 at Newlands
Bulls beat Stormers 28-12 at Loftus Versfeld
Stormers beat Bulls 16-0 at Newlands
Stormers win 29-17 at Loftus Versfeld
Stormers win 15-13 at Newlands
Stormers beat Bulls 33-9 at Newlands
Bulls beat Stormers 17-13 at Loftus Versfeld
Stormers beat Bulls 37-24 at Newlands
Stormers beat Bulls 41-33 at Loftus Versfeld
Bulls beat Stormers 33-23 at Loftus Versfeld
Stormers beat Bulls 29-17 at Newlands
Bulls beat Stormers 40-3 at Loftus Versfeld
Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix