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Stormers must lift themselves for Loftus

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The Stormers will make their way to Pretoria for their third game since rugby returned and there are a handful of issues they’ll want to fix if they want to put on an improved display after two rather poor ones.

The Stormers will have to be on top of their game when they head up Pretoria to take on the Bulls this weekend. Picture: Phando Jikelo, African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – With a trip to Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria up next, the Stormers are going to have to drastically improve if they want to avoid being a victim of the Bulls’ “turning point”.

The Bulls produced a clinical performance to humble the Sharks and bag a 41-14 victory at Loftus on Saturday evening.

Jake White’s men romped to a superb six-try showing after they put on an iffy display against Griquas at home in the opening round of the Super Rugby Unlocked competition, and then there was that defeat to the Cheetahs last week.

But this past weekend they were on another level, and even in their SuperFan Saturday friendly against the Sharks they scored some top tries in a performance that was quite similar to their Round Three encounter with Sean Everitt’s men.

“I hope it is a turning point. But I am also realistic. We have to understand that we played so well against the Sharks in the first game back, but we struggled in the next two games,” White said after the game.

“I hope this game will be a turning point for us. Everyone can see the signs that this team is busy growing,” he added.

The Stormers will make their way to Pretoria for their third game since rugby returned (they had a bye in Week One), and there are a handful of issues they’ll want to fix if they want to put on an improved display after two rather poor ones.

It should be remembered that this competition is only seven weeks long, and teams have only six games (or a single round of matches) to play themselves closer to the Super Rugby Unlocked trophy before log points get carried over into the Currie Cup. So, every game matters.

Judging by their performance at Mbombela, nobody would call a Nelspruit native sour for feeling that the Pumas should have won the game. In fact, after the Friday night fixture, John Dobson himself said that they were “well beaten”.

The handling errors that plagued them against in their scrappy win over the Lions crept into their play against the Pumas as well, and with the kind of pace and pouncers the Bulls have, the Stormers will regret allowing balls to go loose and gift wrapping opportunities for the opposition.

Their line-out was another concern in both their first two games, and while it was worrying against the Lions (especially in the first half), the area – which is traditionally one of their strengths – had also seen better days against the Pumas. And it’s one of the main things they’re going to have to fix before the face the Bulls, who were outstanding in that regard, with White quipping that the Sharks were still using the same tactics at the set-piece from back when he was involved (and if you watched the game, you’d have sworn it to be true).

Sure, the Stormers certainly deserve credit for the way they fought back from a heavy deficit, and they also secured the win despite being 9-6 down against the Lions in their first game.

But when they play the Bulls this weekend, they can’t bank on playing catch-up, especially not against a side that proved so clinical in their demolition if the Sharks … and especially not at altitude.

@WynonaLouw