Bulls can, but deep pitfalls also await

Henry

The Bulls have the ability, depth, temperament and right game plan to win the United Rugby Championship, but then they will also have to avoid a few pitfalls.

The two big ones are the Irish powerhouse Leinster and to shake off the psychological hold the Stormers have on the Bulls at local level.

In the European Cup Series, it will be much tougher, because there the cream of France and England will in all probability be waiting away from home in the knockout rounds.

Since the Bulls and Stormers first met in 1998, the Stormers have won 13 times and the Bulls nine times.

But more worrying is that the last time the Bulls were able to win at Newlands was on 11 June 2011 when they defeated the Stormers 19-16.

Weaker Stormers teams have beaten stronger Bull teams before and it could happen again.

As things stand after nine rounds in the HRC, Leinster (34 points) lead, followed by Benetton (32), the Glasgow Warriors (31), Bulls (30), Ulster (28), Stormers (26), Edinburgh (26 ) and the Welsh Ospreys (25).

The Lions have 24 points and can slip in the back door for the play-offs, while the Sharks (9 points) are last and soon out of the race.

But be warned that they can be major spoilers.

The Bulls still have nine games to play in the HRC, starting away against the Lions, at home against the Stormers (Saturday 2 March), away against the Dragons and Leinster, at home against Munster, the Ospreys, Benetton and Glasgow and a final game against the Sharks in Durban.

Leinster will soon finish first, with the Bulls and Stormers among the top four.

The Bulls and Stormers can avoid each other in the quarter-finals, but face each other in a possible semi-final, on the home field of the team that finishes highest on the standings.

The quarter-finals take place on 3, 4 or 5 June, the semi-finals are played on 10, 11 or 12 June and the final on 23, 24 or 25 June.

Things could get very interesting if the Bulls or Stormers will be involved in the final, because the Springbok coach, Rassie Erasmus, will organize a warm-up test against Wales at Twickenham before the Springboks take on the Irish in two tests on 6 and 13 July.

All date available is the last weekend in June, when the final of the HRC takes place.