Super Rugby 2017: Stormers v Bulls Preview

Super-Rugby-2017Stormers-v-Bulls-Preview

Saturday evening sees the Stormers get their 2017 campaign underway when they take on the Bulls at DHL Newlands.

The opening round of the 2017 Super Rugby season closes out with a clash between the Stormers and Bulls. Despite it being early doors in the season, both sides will know that this game could have a significant bearing on securing qualification for the playoffs. As such, the match is likely to be an extremely hard-fought affair.

Stormers v Bulls | Saturday 25 February | DHL Newlands | 19h30

To Win (80 Mins)
Stormers 5/10 | Draw 20/1 | Bulls 16/10

Handicap
Stormers (-4.5) 9/10 | Bulls (+4.5) 9/10
Stormers
The Stormers will strive for a repeat of their 33-9 mauling in last year's corresponding fixture, this weekend. New captain Siya Kolisi's men have a powerful squad brimming with talent, and they will look to use every inch of it in their quest to qualify for the playoffs this season. Coach Robbie Fleck confirmed Kolisi as captain on Tuesday, saying that "Although quite young, he is already an experienced player who has matured both on and off the field, and is one of the most popular and respected players in our squad,". Kolisi will look to this game as the stepping stone towards propelling himself back into the Springbok stratosphere, after being ruled out of most of 2016 through injury.

Along with vice-captain Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit will again look to hog the headlines for the Cape franchise this season, after his stellar performances, last year earned him the SA Rugby Player of the Year award. They will have their hands full this weekend looking after fellow Springbok and former POTY Lood de Jager. The lineouts are sure to be an enormous tussle, and it will be fascinating to see how the incumbent Springbok second-row pairing deals with de Jager and the young brigade of Bulls locks RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins. Should the Stormers boss the physical exchanges this weekend, the platform will be set for flyhalf Robert du Preez and his electric backline to showcase their X-factor.

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Bulls
The Bulls, under coach Nollis Marais, experimented with a different, more expansive game in last year's Currie Cup campaign, and it will be interesting to see whether they continue to do so throughout their upcoming Super Rugby one. Their newly adopted policy of running the ball - something none of us were really sure a Bulls side was capable of, to be quite frank - as opposed to their age-old "skop en jag" tactics took them all the way to last season's Currie Cup final.

Super Rugby is a different ball game, however, and whether or not they will continue with their new-found attack-minded philosophy remains to be seen. They come up against a very physical Stormers team this weekend, with plenty of X-factor players in their backs. Should the Bulls successfully pull off a win at Newlands this weekend, Marais' men may be encouraged to carry on with their evolution throughout the remainder of their campaign.

Handle Pollard is back in 2017, and the new Bulls skipper is integral to Marais and his side if they are to pull off a victory at Newlands this weekend. His attacking-mindedness will do the Bulls wonders this season (should they continue with their new philosophy), and he will want to prove to the Springbok selectors that the national no. 10 jersey belongs to him.

Centre Jan Serfontein on the other hand, will have to delay his return to the Super Rugby fold even further, after straining his back this week, meaning the possible inclusion of a Burger Odendaal/Dries Swanepoel midfield combination. If the Bulls can match the Stormers up front and put Du Preez and co. under pressure this Saturday, they will be able to showcase their 'Total Rugby' and make a big statement to the other South African sides in the competition.

Verdict: Bulls 16/10
The Stormers may be playing at home and may have a multitude of playing talent in their ranks, but the Bulls are moving in the right rugby direction and, with Pollard back, should cause an upset to win by between three and five points on Saturday.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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