Morné Steyn says the Bulls’ kick-chase approach has paved the way for them to score tries and stressed that they won’t veer from it against the Stormers.
The Bulls, with 17 tries, lead the tournament in trips across the whitewash. That tally has been boosted by multi-try demolitions of the Cheetahs and Reds, with Steyn asserting that their method of crafting those scoring opportunities is justification for their unwavering faith in their renowned kick-chase approach.
‘It’s our belief that defences in general play are too well organised to create regular scoring opportunities and not risk turnovers,’ the Bulls flyhalf told keo.co.za. ‘We have two of the best wingers in the game at catching the high ball – Akona [Ndungane] and Bjorn [Basson] – and Zane [Kirchner] is close behind them. We stand a high percentage chance of getting it back in opposition territory if the kick is accurate. If they catch it, our next attack is against an unset defensive line. People can be critical of the execution but not the tactic because it is what has brought us many tries so far.
‘When we punt deep [i.e not an up-and-under] we back our defensive line to put pressure on the returner if they run. If they kick we have a broken field opportunity. It’s not entertaining in the way some people would like it to be but we have faith in it. We don’t see any reason to change.’
In preparation for north-south derbies the Bulls had previously banked on the Stormers’ inability to suppress their cavalier instinct to aid their cause. But much has changed for the Cape franchise, who now employ a strategy that closely mirrors the Bulls’.
Indeed the Stormers’ primary kickers, Joe Pietersen (38) and Dewaldt Duvenhage (27) rank among the tournament’s top 10 in tactical punts (Steyn is sixth in that category with 33). One suspects that if the Stormers had retained the same flyhalf from the opening game he too would feature prominently.
‘They have definitely changed the way they play in the last three years or so and they are getting better and better at it,’ Steyn said. ‘They don’t get tired of a kicking war. They also have the defensive power and discipline to defend through a lot of phases and force penalties or turnovers that create scoring chances. Their attack has been criticised but if you look at the quality of players there you know they can click at any stage.’
The Blues exhibited uncharacteristic restraint in beating the Bulls early in the tournament, employing a territory-based approach and then taking the chances they created through pressure defence. The Stormers will have to be equally clinical at Newlands on Saturday if they hope to retain their unbeaten record.
By Ryan Vrede