URC Grand Final: Bulls v Glasgow: 10 things you need to know about the Bulls

Iain Morrison looks at the strengths and tries to identify some weaknesses in a formidable line-up

Bulls head coach Jake White. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Bulls head coach Jake White. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

1. Attack is the best form of defence

They topped the URC stats in attack, claiming the most tries and the most points scored. They managed 85 tries (in the regular season), four more than Leinster, but their overall points tally of 639 was a whopping 85 more than nearest rivals, again Leinster with 554. Their fly-half/kicker Johan Goosen has the second highest total points of any kicker, behind Edinburgh’s Ben Healy. However, the Bulls only rate 11th (out of 16) when it comes to defence. Benetton scored 23 points at Loftus in the quarters, Leinster managed 20 in the semis and Munster beat the Bulls on their own patch just two months ago, scoring 27 points in the process. You fancy Glasgow will get chances to score.

2. Beware big Bokke breakaways

The Bulls boast an inexperienced but exciting back-row trio of Elrigh Louw (24-years-old and 6ft 5ins), Marco van Staden (28, 6ft 0ins) and No 8 Cameron Hanekom (22, 6ft 4”in), who was man-of-the-match in that semi-final win over Leinster. As you would expect with a name like that, the ‘eighthman’ also qualifies for a European nation … Wales! You fancy that South Africa might win any potential tug o’war with Warren Gatland, but he remains uncapped, for now. These three outplayed their illustrious Leinster opponents despite boasting just 12 caps between them. Glasgow will have noted that the Bulls utilise Louw on the flank to regather the cross-field kick-pass. Kyle Steyn and Seb Cancelliere can expect an aerial battle with the Bulls’ breakaway come the final.

3. Five from eight isn’t bad!

The Bulls dominated the recently announced URC team of the season with six players selected, but Kurt-Lee Ardense is the only back to make the cut, which strongly suggests that the Bulls’ strength lies in the forwards. Who would have guessed?! Those five forwards are breakaway duo of Hanekom and Louw, lock and skipper Ruan Nortje and the front-row pair of hooker Akker van der Merwe and tight-head Wilco Louw, who will push Jamie Bhatti in every sense of the word. Louw is a world class No 3 and gave Andrew Porter a going over last Saturday, not many can make that claim, but Glasgow’s Bhatti has already performed minor miracles by keeping Springbok Frans Malherbe quiet during Glasgow’s quarter-final against the Stormers. If the game is tight the result could be decided by this front-row battle.


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4. He’s no oor Wullie, he’s their Willie

Is there a smarter rugby brain operating at the pinnacle of the game right now? Willie Le Roux has 93 international caps and is now 34-years-old but most of what marks him out from his professional peers is going on inside his head so his age is an irrelevance. Just as he does for the Bokke, the full0back comes into his own in attack when offering the Bulls an extra playmaker option and against Leinster his kicking game kept most of the play in the opposition half. He and fly-half Goosen will kick to Glasgow’s Josh McKay in the hope of isolating the full-back because the Kiwi loves to run the ball back. Le Roux failed an HIA in the final quarter of the Leinster match and if he can’t play against Glasgow it will be a significant loss for the home team.

5. Blitzboks and puff adders

‘Blitzboks’ is the name given to South Africa’s Sevens/SVNS team but it applies equally to the Bulls who use a hard press to stop the opposition attack in its tracks. Leinster looked powerless in the face of this onslaught (where is Jonny Sexton when you need him?) and Glasgow must prepare to either go through, around or over the Bulls’ blitz. Much of the responsibility lies with Warriors’ fly-half Tom Jordan. The Kiwi is hugely physical for a playmaker (as is his opposite number Goosen) but he will need to think his way around the Bulls defence because he isn’t going to Tuilagi his way through it. “It’s like a schoolboy game in Pofadder,” Bull’s coach Jake White said of his team’s much improved defense against Leinster. “They may not score a lot of tries but they tackle the hell out of each other.” Pofadder is a one horse town miles from anywhere on the Namibian border where they obviously breed ‘em tough. And yes, Pofadder is Afrikans for puff adder.

6. Reasons to be cheerful

If the odds look a little stacked against Glasgow, at least the Scottish side won’t have to face two of the most electric finishers in the game. Springbok’s wingers  Arendse (all 76 kgs of him) and Canan Moodie (who also plays centre) are both injured. Arendse suffered a head injury against Benetton in the quarters while Moodie fractured a finger that required surgery against the Sharks some weeks back. Willie Le Roux is also a doubt (see above) while flanker and club captain Marcel Coetzee has missed much of the season following a knee operation.

 

 

7. Winging it

South African teams boast strength in depth so the loss of the twin Springbok wingers was not causing panic in the Bulls’ ranks. Replacement winger Sergeal Peterson popped up with a brace of tries against Leinster showing great pace and positioning in doing so. He also copped a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on in what proved an eventful afternoon for the speedster.

8. Big Brother is watching (from the bench)

Armand “Akker” van der Merwe is Duhan’s big bro (34 last Monday) and, at just 5ft 10ins tall, he obviously got elbowed out of the milk queue by his younger sibling. The hooker will likely start on the bench, giving way to Johan Grobbelaar, despite making the URC team-of-the-year.  First or second choice, Akker remains a big threat. He sits second on the URC try scoring list, with 12 to his name, behind Glasgow’s Johnny Mathews who has 14.

9. Home Sweet Home

Petrus Francois ‘Franco’ Smith is going home, well kinda. Welkom tuis! He was born in Lichtenburg, a three hour drive to the west of Pretoria/Jo’berg, and he actually played several seasons for the Bulls at the turn of the millennium.

10.  Reasons to be cheerful, part two

South African rugby players rarely want for self belief and whatever Jake White has said before the game to keep his players grounded, the Bulls will, to a man, believe that they are destined to win this one. Perhaps they are? But the longer Glasgow can stay close (or ahead) on the scoreboard the more the home side will feel the heat. Furthermore, the Bulls may have already played their final in that scalding semi performance against Leinster. If Franco’s Warriors do win Saturday’s URC Grand Final they will have done it the hard way.

 

  • Our friends at Base Scotland (owners of The Duke’s Umbrella and Maison by Glaschu) are showing Saturday’s URC Grand Final at BAaD (Barras Art and Design) in their outdoor backyard area from 3pm. They are open from 12pm with food and drinks available. It’s on a table-booking/first-come-first-served basis so get there early or click HERE to secure your spot.
  • Please note that Saturday’s European Championship matches will be shown on the indoor screen.

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About Iain Morrison 151 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.