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Victor Matfield © Gallo Images

Stormers v Bulls: the expert opinions

The whole country is abuzz with anticipation ahead of Saturday’s big derby between the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls at Newlands on Saturday. SuperSport's commentators are no different.

We raked in the opinions of some of our commentators - namely Victor Matfield, Bob Skinstad, Breyton Paulse, Warren Brosnihan and Hanyani Shimange - who have played in this massive North/South derby to find out what they think.

Read what they had to say, and then give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

And if you would like your question around the clash answered by our senior rugby writers Gavin Rich and Brenden Nel, click on the link to go through to the Q&A. Click here...

1. The old North/South derby has always had a special place in the hearts of South African fans. Is it the same for the players? And is the preparation different than for other matches?

Victor Matfield: Yes, it’s the same for the players. It is always a pleasure to play against the Stormers, because all the supporters and the people in the street are so excited, and there is a lot of banter around. What is important, however, is that the game doesn’t become too big, and you ensure that your preparations and routines stay the same.

Bob Skinstad: It definitely is the same for players, a good rivalry brings out the best in them. The preparation is more complex and you probably have to work on outwitting the opposition more!

Breyton Paulse: It's certainly the same for the players, because with the history and tradition that goes with it there is always that extra spice. It's almost an automatic motivation leading up to the game!

Warren Brosnihan As a player you feel the anticipation, excitement and history involved in games such as this. It is impossible not to pick this up from your supporters, especially if you are playing at home. The can have an effect on the player. However, you learn that you need to try neutralise it and prepare by going through the same routine as you would for any other game.

Hanyani Shimange: Certainly, the intensity at practice always picks up. It’s game face from Monday. All of a sudden everyone wants tickets and there are more people coming to watch the practice. It’s a special week.

2. The Bulls are widely expected to bombard the Stormers with up-and-unders. Is this a tactic that can work against Habana, Aplon and Pietersen?

Victor: The Bulls always work hard on their kicking and I believe that, along with a strong defence, it is one of the most important weapons if you’re looking to win. In Bjorn and Akona they have two wings that are brilliant in the air, so I expect to see them go that route often.

Bob: They have proven themselves under the high ball and I think weather will dictate how much the ball is kicked. Long up-field might be more important than high up-and-unders.

Breytie: Certainly, it always has been a strong point of the Bulls, their box kicks, and having a player that's one of the best in the air competing for ball in the form of Bjorn Basson makes it a no-brainer!

Warren: These three are very good players who work together well as a back-three unit. The Bulls have fantastic ability, when running forward to collect the ball out of the air. This is a real skill. Habana, Aplon and Pietersen are all short in height, I thus expect the Bulls to continue with this tactic as it could work out positively for them.

Remember, it often easier for the advancing player to gain extra height in the leap to gain the ball. However, the timing of this jump and ability to keep your eyes on the ball, all in a split second, whilst moving at great speed, is what makes it so difficult to do.

Hanyani: The Province back three will know what to expect. It’s about how the Stormers can disrupt the Bulls’ rhythm and protect the catchers. I don't think it will work as the Stormers always prepare well and generally handle the Bulls’ kicking game well.

3. The weathermen are predicting rain on Thursday and Friday, but that it will have hopefully cleared up by Saturday. What kind of an impact will the weather have on the match?

Victor: The weather, regardless of what it is, is always the same for both teams on the field. It definitely influences choices made, and you have to adapt and take the correct options.

Bob: Just saw this! Weather will be a big factor, but it is always dry and windless in Cape Town. I think the team with possession will need to make weather relevant decisions, like scrum the odd penalty instead of kicking for lineouts etc.

Breytie: If it's a fine day not much, both teams have certain game plans, but it would be interesting to see what the Stormers tactics would because up to know they've been underperforming and had put more emphasis on defence. Will they mix it up a little? From a Bulls perspective, they played a great all-round game against the Reds.

Warren: Weather will always have an impact on the game. Both teams have the necessary skills to adapt their game plan. The forward play will become even more important, in wet conditions, to allow the No 10 to control where on the field the game will be played. The Stormers have certainly muscled up this season, their defence is always fantastic and this provides extra intrigue against a side, like the Bulls, who have always liked to dominate the collision zone.

Hanyani: With rainy weather it becomes a lot more tactical in kicking and forward orientated. Either way it’s always about adapting and dominating the gain-line in these derby games.

4. Both teams are going into the match without a recognised open-side flank. How will this affect the battle for the ball on the ground?

Victor: These days you have more than just one guy stealing balls on the ground, so it’s no longer just one player’s responsibility. The out and out openside flankers haven’t been so prominent in this year’s competition and I think both teams have a good balance in the loose-trio.

Bob: It will increase the danger of penalties at the breakdown so that might bring the kickers into it. We might also see the ball going up the middle of the field to create two attacking options (either side).

Breytie: Makes it equal the at the breakdown, which means both teams will be allowed in some way to have quick ball. If they clean effectively, it definitely makes it more open I feel.

Warren: Some teams have backed out of this area of the game, for fear of being penalised and the knowledge that they have very good defensive organisation. This applies both to the Bulls and Stormers. Against the Lions last week the Stormers often stayed out of the ruck zone and allowed the Lions to secure their Ball.

Both teams have lots of confidence in their defensive work and will try to turn the ball in the collision through big hits and gang tackling the carrier. Again this makes for an intriguing showdown between these two sides!

Hanyani: Siya Kolisi is good on the ground, but dominating contact creates turnovers now with higher body positions at the breakdown. Auckland played with two fetchers and Stormers did well, so it all comes down to gain-line domination and who will look after their personal space.

5. The Stormers possess perhaps the tallest lineout in world rugby. Will the Bulls be able to compete in this area?

Victor: Their lineout is one of the Stormers’ big weapons, but if you look at the stats so far this season I think the Bulls have done better. In Juandre they have someone who really understands the lineout and manages it well. Both teams have five jumpers, and it will be a big challenge to everyone.

Bob: They will have to innovate and make the Stormers guess a bit, but yes they can compete. We will see them counter the drive as best they can, as it is a super attacking weapon.

Breytie: The Bulls have always been strong in that department, even though Victor is not there anymore. It's certainly a great opportunity for a guy like Bekker to stake his claim and not to mention the promising Juandre Kruger. What a battle this could be!

Warren: Yes to the statement and yes to the question. It must be helluva intimidating to stand in that lineout trying to secure ball with two large blue gum trees standing alongside you. Duane Vermeulen is also good at lineout time. It is a real strong aspect of the Stormers play.

However, the Stormers do not compete every time at the lineout. They choose their moments and can also be placed under pressure on their throw. The Bulls have shorter men, but they work incredibly hard at this facet of the game, under the tutelage of Matfield and Van Graan. They will try beat the Stormers men by speed of movement across the ground and mixing things up.

Hanyani: The Bulls have always had a good lineout and they will secure their own ball. It’s about the options you have and the accuracy in execution. Lineout organisation is key, and I have not seen many teams steal ball from the Bulls.

6. One of the most anticipated match-ups of the weekend is in the midfield, where Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh will come up against Wynand Olivier and Johann Sadie. What can we expect from that clash?

Victor: Those players know each other very well and all four of them are brilliant in their own way. As always it will depend on who gets the ball on the front foot, if that happens any one of them can be dangerous.

Bob: Big hits and a lot of aggression! The two pairs are talented and will be focused on showing that they have the better of their opposition.

Breytie: Mouthwatering! De Villiers looks himself again and De Jongh is waiting to explode. Olivier was dynamic against the Reds and we all know Sadie's ability and the fact that this old WP boy wants to prove a point. What a contest in waiting.

Warren: Fireworks!!!!!!!

Hanyani: We will see a mix of power and precision. Wynand and Sadie is a classic inside and outside centre combination whereas the Province guys are both inside centres. Once again it comes down to momentum and the quality of ball you receive.

Like a true forward, I believe this one will be won up front.


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The opinions expressed by Sport24 experts and bloggers are theirs alone, and do not necessarily represent those of SuperSport

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