Ulster coach Dan McFarland expects that his side will get “hit with a big hammer” as they pursue victory on the SA leg of their Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
The Irish side face the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday, before locking horns with the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria next week.
The Stormers scored six tries in a bonus-point win over Cardiff on Sunday in scorching conditions, capping another perfect round for SA franchises against overseas teams in the URC.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash at Cape Town Stadium, McFarland said: “We’re relishing the opportunity of playing in South Africa; there hasn’t been a win out here for an overseas team, and we’re next up.
“It isn’t a surprise how well SA teams are doing at home. They initially struggled a little to acclimatise to conditions in the northern hemisphere, similar to our guys now playing in 30-degree heat against the Stormers.”
Ulster are second in the URC, just one point behind log-leaders Leinster, who they beat two weeks ago. But, McFarland is wary of the Stormers, now seventh in the standings, and having scored nine tries against Zebre last week.
“It’s a brand-new mountain for us to climb – it’s not like playing Leinster,” he said. “We’ve done a big job of analysing them and watching their games.
“They’ve got power-running forwards, and good mauling. Frans Malherbe might be back this weekend, they’ve got a big No 8 in Evan Roos, and their No 6 [Deon Fourie] has been stealing the ball on the ground for I don’t how many years.
“Their 10 and 15 kick the ball a long way, and they got tremendous pace across the back, so we have to watch if the game opens up and be ready for the counter.”
McFarland added: “We’ve got a chunk of power ourselves, but there’s a noticeable difference when playing the SA sides. They hit like a big hammer, and when the game opens up and cracks start to show, they have the players to hit you.
“We have goals to finish well this season and winning in SA will be a big part of that.”
A not-so secret weapon for Ulster is Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen – who has skippered the Stormers and Bulls – in their touring group.
“We have a style in the way we play, such as mauling, and Duane has had a huge influence on our mauling, and he understands the SA methodology of that aspect of the game,” McFarland said.
“On and off the field, he will be a big influence.”