Bulls must avoid head games against Stormers, says Nortjé as Cobus Wiese move confirmed

Bulls lock Ruan Nortjé will hope to rule the line-outs and kick-offs against the Stormers tomorrow. Photo: PHANDO JIKELO Independent Newspapers

Bulls lock Ruan Nortjé will hope to rule the line-outs and kick-offs against the Stormers tomorrow. Photo: PHANDO JIKELO Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 1, 2024


Captain Ruan Nortjé has warned his Bulls team not to make tomorrow’s United Rugby Championship showdown at Loftus Versfeld too big of an occasion.

The Pretoria side are desperate to stop a seven-match losing streak against the Capetonians increasing to eight when they run out on their hallowed home turf for the 5.05pm kick-off tomorrow.

But sometimes chasing a victory can get in the way of the process to achieve it, which has been evident in many of the Bulls’ defeats to their great rivals.

Coach Jake White said this week that his team have yet to play their best rugby against John Dobson’s side, and there isn’t a better time to actually do that than tomorrow.

The Bulls have made pleasing progress this season in all aspects of their game to be in third position on the URC log, while also reaching April’s Champions Cup knockout round.

But they need to get rid of the Stormers bogey this weekend to gain real belief that they can win a trophy this season.

“In the previous games, we felt that we were also very well prepared ... That game in Cape Town (in December, when the Stormers won 26-20), 77th minute we got a line-out on the five-metre line, and it could’ve gone any way,” Nortjé said.

“Against the Stormers, we tend to lose a bit of composure, so our game management will have to be better when we play them.

“Sometimes in the past we put too much on that specific game. It’s for us to look at them as just another side, focus on our game and what we can do well and where we can put them under pressure, and take it from there.

“It’s important for us to not get into too much head games and too much stuff in the media. We must put all those things aside, and focus on the game and what we’ve got to do.

“Our focus has got to be better. We talk about it before a game, but then we still give away silly penalties early in the game, which puts us under pressure.

“I don’t think it’s something massive. It’s important for us to clear that head-space of keeping our focus at all times, and not losing our composure in certain parts of the game – especially when we are tired.”

Nortjé will have a personal point to prove as well in his No 5 lock battle with the Stormers’ Ruben van Heerden, with both men having been included in the 43-man group for next week’s Springbok alignment camp in Cape Town.

The Bulls skipper has enjoyed working with new forwards coach and ex-Bok lock Andries Bekker this season, and will look to put pressure on the Stormers line-out tomorrow.

“He has been massive for me personally – it’s just a privilege to work with him,” Nortjé said about Bekker.

“Since I was a little boy growing up, I looked at him playing ... Obviously he wasn’t playing for a team that I loved, but I always thought that he was an amazing player.

“He has had a massive impact on me personally. He helps me a lot with the small things in my game – especially my line-outs – and I am definitely feeling that it is working for me ... just movements and small things to make me better.

“Just to the pack of forwards as a whole, he just brings so much energy, and the whole pack wants to play for him and not disappoint him.

“Credit to the Stormers – that’s all you can give them. They have been good, and in the last seven games, they beat us ... That’s how it is.

“We’ve got to focus on our game, and it’s going to be an awesome north-south derby, and I can’t wait for it.”

* The Bulls confirmed the signing of former Stormers utility forward Cobus Wiese on Thursday on a two-year deal, which will start on July 1 this year.

Wiese, who is capable of playing at blindside flank and No 4 lock, has been plying his trade at English club Sale Sharks since 2020, played for the Stormers from 2017 until moving to the northern hemisphere.

The 26-year-old younger brother of Springbok No 8 Jasper, who hails from Upington, will bring a mix of physicality and good running lines to the Pretoria outfit.

“We take pride in attracting quality players into our fold, and we are extremely happy to bring a player of Cobus’ ability to the Bulls,” White said.

“He is a talented lock who can play at flank too, so he is versatile and that adds to our arsenal.

“I do not doubt that he also brings experience with him, having spent these past few years in England, and that will be an added bonus for our team as we continue to compete in the north.

“It is great to have more quality South African rugby players returning to the country to play their rugby here – this will benefit our overall product in the competitions we play.

“It also adds more depth to available options, and improves the quality of the game that fans get to see. We cannot wait to welcome Cobus home.”