Stormers' Russell Winter wary of Bulls' Vermeulen and Brits

The Stormers travel to Loftus for their Super Rugby opener against their traditional Northern rivals, the Bulls.

FILE: Springbok hooker Schalk Brits (left) during training at the Cape Town Stadium. Picture: Bertram Malgas/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Stormers forwards coach Russell Winter believes the signings of Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits are the perfect additions for the Bulls franchise, who took the wooden spoon in 2018’s Super Rugby South African conference.

The Stormers travel to Loftus for their Super Rugby opener against their traditional Northern rivals, the Bulls.

Loose forward Vermeulen is the incumbent Springbok number 8 and is almost guaranteed a plane ticket to Japan in October.

The Bulls will be fortunate to have the bulldozing power of the number 8 as well as his skills on the ground at the breakdown.

Brits is a more intriguing case. Initially, he retired after an impressive stint with Saracens, where he became an icon at the Premiership successful club.

It remains to be seen what Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has in mind for the 37-year-old hooker who was supposed to be doing his executive MBA at Cambridge.

Brits was called up to the Springbok squad in 2018. The dynamic hooker did not get a lot of minutes but played a leadership role, with Erasmus desperate for experience in his ranks.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s derby, Winter is understandably wary of the duo’s potential impact on a fixture of this magnitude.

“Everybody knows they are great players and the bonus with them is that they are really experienced. They know how to play these big games,” Winter said.

“I’m sure they will influence the Bulls pack. I don’t want to say if they needed players it was those two, but they are great players to have in any squad.

“If you talk about a spine of a side; 2 and 8 are vital but having said that we have great players at 2 and 8. So, those matchups are going to be key on Saturday,” added Winter.

The Bulls have struggled in the competition in recent years and finished last in the South African conference in 2018. The experienced pair will certainly bring renewed optimism at the union.

The two sides met two weeks ago in a warm-up match which the Stormers won 33-28, but Winter believes the Bulls were holding back.

“To be honest, I don’t think they gave too much away, neither did we. The pack we chose played at the tempo and at an intensity we wanted. They made us back them for the season to come. I don’t think they showed a lot of what they want to do (this season).

“This weekend will be a different game from what we saw at the Superhero Sunday.”