Van Zyl must handle the heat

The outcome of the Newlands derby will depend on Piet van Zyl's performance in the face of some fierce Stormers defence, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Stormers are back in South Africa, and dying for another crack at the Vodacom Bulls. A win this Saturday will see the Stormers overtaking the Bulls at the top of the South African conference. A loss will allow the Bulls to extend their lead.

The Bulls won't be wanting for motivation. They lost the previous game between these two teams at Loftus Versfeld, and lost badly. They will want to prove a point at Newlands, but will have to do so without key players such as lock Victor Matfield and scrumhalf Rudy Paige.

The injury-enforced absence of Matfield robs the Bulls of their chief leader and lineout manager. However, the Bulls may miss Paige more than Matfield on this occasion, give the lack of a like-for-like replacement at No 9.

Piet van Zyl has been selected to start at scrumhalf at Newlands on Saturday. The player will have plenty to prove after some indifferent performances at the beginning of the 2015 season. He and the Bulls will know that the Stormers will be targeting him as a potential weak link.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has selected a big pack with the aim of neutralising the threat of the Bulls. Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi and the physical talisman Duane Vermeulen will feature in the Stormers back row. Coetzee said this combination gives the Stormers physicality but also an ability to compete at the breakdown.

The Stormers beat the Bulls in round one through a superb breakdown and defensive performance. They will surely look to employ the same formula when they host their traditional rivals this weekend. Burger, Kolisi and Vermeulen will aim to outplay their loose forward counterparts. They will also aim to rush and hassle Van Zyl at the base of the rucks and scrums.

The Bulls will rely on the power of their forwards as well as the kicking of their halfbacks for success. If Van Zyl, an inconsistent tactical kicker at the best of times, is pressured and forced into mistakes, the Bulls' chances of victory will be compromised.

However, if the Bulls forwards front and contain the threat of that Stormers loose trio, Van Zyl will have more time on the ball. And from there, the Bulls have a host of Bok backs as well as the ever-improving Jesse Kriel at their disposal.

While there may be some uncertainty over Van Zyl's selection, the Bulls are fortunate to have the form flyhalf in South Africa calling the shots at No 10. Handré Pollard controlled the game well in the previous game against the Sharks, and his kicking out of hand and for posts ensured the Pretoria side banked an important result.

Pollard tested the Sharks back three with a series of high-hanging kicks, and on many occasions, the Bulls won the contest in the air and regathered possession. Pollard and the Bulls will employ the same tactics when they visit Newlands this Saturday. Cheslin Kolbe will be targeted, as will the inexperienced Johnny Kotze and Pat Howard, the latter who will be playing in his first Super Rugby match.

The fact that the Stormers only recently returned from a tour to Australasia should be significant. It is in the final quarter where they may run out of steam and allow the Bulls to take the lead on the scoreboard.

It's for this reason that the Stormers must capitalise on their opportunities in the first half. If they don't lead by a substantial margin at half-time, then the Bulls will go on to win the game.

Overall: Stormers 13, Bulls 10, Draw 1
In Cape Town: Stormers 7, Bulls 4, Draw 1

– A losing bonus point has not been scored in any of the last five meetings between these teams.
– The last time the Stormers hosted the Bulls, the hosts won 16-0; this marking the lowest scoring game either side has been involved in.
– That was the third time the Stormers reduced a side to nil and the fourth time the Bulls did not score a point.
– Prior to a 13-6 win in Perth last week, the Stormers’ previous nine games all produced over 40 points in total.
– Both these sides have conceded 17 tries this season. The Stormers have conceded the most second-quarter tries (nine, six more than the Bulls) while the Bulls have conceded the joint-most third-quarter tries (eight).

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Stormers Demetri Catrakilis (81) Dillyn Leyds, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende (2) Cheslin Kolbe (557) Deon Stegmann (98)
Bulls Handré Pollard (120) Francois Hougaard (5) Jesse Kriel (844) Nizaam Carr (70)

Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubenii, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22  Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Lappies Labuschagne, 21 Akona Ndungane, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.

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