Frans Ludeke says their clash with the Stormers will be ‘like a Test in every way’.
The north-south derby at Newlands on Saturday sees the unbeaten Stormers pitted against a Bulls side who have surpassed expectations after a mass exodus of senior players. They smashed the Reds 61-8 at the weekend and victory would see them leapfrog the Stormers in the SA conference.
On a winning streak and in front of their loyal supporters, the Stormers must be considered favourites. However, they will face stern opposition against an extremely efficient and well-coached outfit who have largely exhibited composure under pressure thus far, retaining faith in their trusted method.
That method is one the Stormers have replicated in recent years. Gone are the days when they thrilled with cavalier attacks from deep in their territory. They now prefer a pragmatic kick-chase approach and back their defence – excellent for three seasons – to pressure the opposition into turnovers or infringements.
This fixture used to be a clash of contrasting styles. Now it is a test of patience and execution between sides who mirror each other tactically. That pattern will strongly resemble one seen in Test matches, Ludeke said.
‘The last few games have been won by the team who has been excellent at the fundamentals – a solid set phase, sustained accuracy in defence, well-placed tactical kicks and making your chances count,’ Ludeke told keo.co.za. ‘This match is going to be like a Test in every way.
‘We’ve lost concentration at times at Newlands in the last couple of years and the Stormers have punished us. In matches like these errors are amplified because teams are so switched on that they simply don’t make many. The teams are so well matched, neither give you an inch, that, like a Test, it could come down to goal kicking.’
Asked what the key performance areas would be, Ludeke offered: ‘The forward battle is crucial to win. Dominating that gainline gives you the chance to control and shape the match. It becomes very hard when you’re losing the tackle fight. The Stormers are the best team in the tournament in this regard. We know we will have to lift our game at the gainline hugely.’
The Bulls come into the match still buzzing from the confidence gained from their demolition of the defending champions at Loftus on Saturday. They were slow to find their stride but gradually got going and converted the majority of the scoring opportunities they created. Ludeke said he was encouraged by their slickness.
‘I had the sense that if everything came together we are capable of a result like that,’ he said. ‘The guys were really focussed in the build-up to that game and they won’t need any motivation for the Stormers. They won’t offer us as many opportunities as the Reds did so we can’t waste the few that will come.’
By Ryan Vrede