Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White says he has been impressed by the progress of dynamic flank Marco van Staden, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Van Staden has been one of the most impressive performers in the Super Rugby Unlocked competition over the first three rounds of action.
The 25-year-old was particularly influential in the Bulls’ impressive victory over the Sharks last weekend, racking up 31 running metres, scoring two tries, completing eight tackles and winning three turnovers.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Stormers, White said it was encouraging to see how Van Staden had worked on his game.
‘I must say, I didn’t know the players all that well before I got here, but people obviously rated him very highly. One thing we have been working hard on with breakdown coach Nollis [Marias] is for him to really make clever decisions at the breakdown.
‘Everyone knows he isn’t afraid to get in and have a full crack at the ball. But what I’ve really enjoyed the most about him is the way he’s really developed an understanding of when to go in or not. He’s been getting better and better at that.
‘He’s also improved his ball carrying, and support play, which we saw in the great try he scored last weekend. He’s a massive player for us, probably the most consistent player in all the games we’ve played so far. The way the laws are and the way he’s adapting to them is helping us a massive amount.’
Looking more generally at the challenge the Bulls expect to face this weekend, White made no secret of the fact they expected it to be a massive battle up front, with the Stormers travelling with a heavy contingent of forwards.
Expecting a different challenge to what we faced last week, hope we can confidence from it.
‘I look at their bench and it seems they could go with six forwards and two backs. I can’t remember the last time Province had to do that for a Bulls game, so obviously we’re doing something right up here,’ White quipped.
‘Rugby hasn’t changed; forwards will always win the games for you. It’s going to be one of those game, but what I did learn from the Pumas game is that the Stormers use their scrum to get out of their half.
‘It’s an area they’ve done consistently well and when you have guys like Bongi [Mbonambi], [Steven] Kitshoff, [Frans] Malherbe it obviously works for them. So we know we’ll need to nullify that. But they haven’t come up against our group of players and it will be interesting to see how they cope with the way we want to play and how the two packs stand up against each other.’
Although it’s still early days in the competition, the Bulls do currently sit on top of the standings, and White said he wanted to continued improvement from his side.
‘We just want to focus on getting better and better and better, What was so nice is that we’ve improved on everything each week, whether that be discipline, breakdown, set pieces, mauling attack, little by little we’re getting more and more confident in each other. We know we’ll need to get a lot of things right this Saturday against a quality team with a quality pack of forwards.’