Forwards coach Rito Hlungwani has welcomed the return of Springbok hooker Scarra Ntubeni from injury ahead of what he anticipates to be a physical derby between the Stormers and Vodacom Bulls on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Ntubeni missed the Vodacom United Rugby Championship wins over Ulster and the Ospreys at Cape Town Stadium after picking up an injury in the first half of the home game against Cardiff.
In his absence, along with understudy Andre-Hugo Venter, 28-year-old Chad Solomon has proved to be a sturdy presence for the Stormers at the scrum and lineout, while also working hard at the breakdown and on defence.
The Stormers are, however, expecting to have Ntubeni back in the team to face the Bulls in Cape Town on Saturday, something Hlungwani is pleased about, given the intensity expected from the upcoming derby.
“Hopefully he is back. He did train today,” Hlungwani said of Ntubeni’s return. “I think it’s massive. A guy with his experience is always good to have in our side. Scarra brings a lot of experience to the team, so if he comes back, it will be a good gain for us.”
Like the Stormers, the Bulls are on a five-game winning run and have mustered particularly impressive victories over Munster (29-24), the Scarlets (57-12) and, most recently, Ulster (34-16).
The freedom with which Jake White’s team is attacking this year has not gone unnoticed by the Stormers, with the likes of fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse and wing Madosh Tambwe in excellent form.
“From our side, we know the Bulls have been playing quite an attractive brand of rugby,” Hlungwani said. “They have got speedsters on the outside and have been scoring some beautiful tries. I don’t think they will change the way that they play. They will want to continue with how well they have been playing and keep those systems going.
“This is also a good team and they have won five games on the trot. They won’t really want to adjust much. They have some good things going. They are scoring a lot of tries and they have a very strong pack as well that contests at the lineout. It’s going to be an extremely tough game.”
Hlungwani added that the Stormers won’t be changing too much in terms of their preparation for this weekend and said they will only be looking to tweak a couple of things to ensure they are more consistent with their execution.
“The Bulls vs Western Province or Bulls vs Stormers is always a big game for us. Our mindset is definitely the same this week. We expect them to come out hard and try and impose their physicality on us. We do feel it’s a big game, but we have always felt that these games are big. There won’t be too much of a change in how we approach it. We always take these games seriously. The Bulls are always a tough team to play.
“As much as Ospreys did not kick much against us, we still want to work on our kicking game. We want to work on our consistency on attack and in the set piece. A little bit more consistency in those areas will make us very happy.”
The Stormers team to face the Bulls is set to be named on Wednesday.
Photo: Alfio Guarise/LiveMedia/Shutterstock