When the first South African derby in this year’s Super Rugby series kicks off at Loftus on Saturday between the two teams that always seem to split the country’s rugby supporters between North and South, there is more than just their personnel to consider in picking the winner.
And this has little to do with the two teams’ strengths and weaknesses, with the home ground advantage a very real factor if last season is anything to go by.
These two teams were South Africa’s worst two travellers by far last year ‒ and that does only apply to overseas matches.
The Stormers lost all eight their away matches in the series last year, and the Bulls won only one from their eight matches away from Loftus when they thumped the Sharks 40-10 in Durban,.
Saturday’s adversaries at Loftus finished last and second last in the South African conference that included the Jaguares, with the Stormers finishing one log point above the Bulls on the conference log in 2018.
Here are the two teams’ away results last year ‒
Stormers: lost to Waratahs 27-34, lost to Crusader 28-45, lost to Highlanders 15-33, lost to Bulls 23-33, lost to Lions 31-52, lost to Sharks 17-24, lost to Sunwolves 23-26, lost to Jaguares 14-25.
Bulls: lost to Reds 14-20, lost to Chiefs 28-41, lost to Crusaders 14-33, beat Sharks 40-10, lost to Stormers 17-29, lost to Jaguares 24-54, lost to Sunwolves 37-42, lost to Lions 12-38.
Based on the above, the Bulls should be favourites at home on Saturday ‒ but then the reality is that they have won only seven from their last nine matches against the Stormers, including last year’s 33-23 win at Loftus.
♦ The Lions, who left for Argentina on Wednesday, have the challenge of winning their first ever match against the Jaguares away from home following three defeats, while the Sharks this weekend have their first match in Tokio where they face the Sunwolves, who beat both the Bulls and the Stormers last year.