Jukskei Derby still stirs the waters
Players draw inexplicable energy from local clashes, says Lions captain Louw
The Jukskei Derby has not lost its edge, at least not if Marius Louw and Marcell Coetzee have anything to do with it.
Perhaps reflecting the residents of the province, the matchup has endured as an energetic, gritty and resourceful clash between rugby forces either side of the Jukskei River and Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld will likely prove no different.
There is more than bragging rights at stake, with the Lions desperate to usurp the Bulls as the leaders of the SA Shield in the URC.
“It is always entertaining when Gauteng comes together. It is always lovely,” said Lions captain Louw, in a perhaps unique description of the long-held rivalry.
He added, however, for the players the Jukskei Derby stirs waters within that is hard to explain. “You try your best every week but sometimes you have that inexplicable energy,” said Louw.
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Bulls captain Coetzee agrees that derby matches exact a greater toll. “Local derbies are always tough and physical. It’s personal,” noted Coetzee. “Playing European teams is one thing, but we in South Africa are proud people. We want to go out on the field and give our best, because of the respect we have for each other. I’m sure this weekend won’t be any different.
“What we’ve learnt in this competition is that you can’t start off well and then hit a slump of form and try to recover from that. It is important to just keep ahead.”
Both teams will be seeking improvement from their most recent battles, albeit in different competitions. The Lions faded late and went down at home to the Ospreys, while the Bulls’ leaky defence almost cost them in their clash against Bordeaux-Begles.
“Last week is in the past,” insisted Louw. “This week it comes down to sticking to our processes. We must control what we can. That’s the way we will look at it.”
The Bulls will seek better game management on Saturday. In fact, it was perhaps their most costly shortcoming when they last clashed with the Lions at Loftus.
Last weekend’s clash served as reminder that tactically they need to be more savvy.
“Maybe we played more rugby in our half than we wanted to,” admitted Coetzee. “There was motivation to win at home with a bonus point to qualify for the round of 16. As a team we always go for the highest prize.”
The Bulls will have fewer distractions this weekend. Their eye is fixed on the prize of putting distance between themselves and the Stormers who also have 26 log points, though the Cape side has played one match more.
Similarly the Lions can advance their cause with a win, especially if it is achieved with a bonus point.
The match will be the last before the competition takes a three-week hiatus. Hostilities will resume on the 16th of next month when Munster cross the Irish Sea for a clash against Scarlets.
The following day the Lions play the return fixture against the Bulls, while the Stormers travel to Kings Park for a much-anticipated clash with the Sharks.
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