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Ken Borland


‘You are going to have your character tested’ – Nortje

Posted on March 03, 2022 by Ken

As a professional rugby player, whether the Springbok captain like Siya Kolisi or a 23-year-old still making their way in the game, you are going to have your character tested by the vagaries of the sport.

The shifting fortunes of the teams in the United Rugby Championship have illustrated this perfectly. The Bulls, who had the pressure of expectation on them having dominated the local scene for the last couple of seasons, had to come through the toughest of starts in Europe and are only now inching their way off the bottom of the log.

The Sharks, meanwhile, looked the form South African team last year, culminating in their impressive dismantling of the Bulls in Durban in December. But since then they have been held to a draw and then beaten by the Stormers, who have now overtaken them at the top of the local shield competition.

And now the Bulls and the Sharks will clash in Pretoria on Saturday, a key local derby which Bulls coach Jake White described as being like a final.

“You’re going to have your character tested at certain times but the Sharks are still a great team,” Ruan Nortje, the highly promising young Bulls lock, said on Monday at Loftus Versfeld.

“They have lots of experience, Springboks all over their team. I’m sure they will be playing good rugby on Saturday and it’s important for us to also be ready.

“I don’t think last weekend’s result will affect the Sharks in any way. I’m sure they will be ready to bounce back.

“We’ll take confidence from the points we’ve gained in the last two games against the Lions, but it was not a perfect performance by us last weekend, we struggled in many aspects. There are lots of areas we need to grow, basic errors cost us,” Nortje said.

The Lions, Stormers and Sharks have all put the Bulls under pressure at scrum time recently and Nortje acknowledged that getting the better of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Thomas du Toit is going to be a major challenge and the Bulls need to improve drastically in that set-piece.

“We’ve been under a bit of pressure at scrum-time lately, we’ve had some injuries. But the work coaches Russell Winter and Werner Kruger are putting in will help a lot in the long-term.

“It’s been better the last couple of weeks, but we are not where we want to be yet. We’re up against an all-Springbok front row – what a challenge for us!

“We will just focus on our processes and it will be great to test ourselves against a quality side like the Sharks. Last time we struggled against them in the scrums, which gave them a lot of opportunities to get into our 22 and convert that into points.

“So a massive step-up is needed by us at the scrums, and also at the breakdown, where we struggled as well,” Nortje said.

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