United Rugby Championship: Stormers flanker Willie Engelbrecht braced for Bulls back-row onslaught

Stormers flanker Willie Engelbrecht is looking forward to the back-row battle when his team host the Bulls in their United Rugby Championship derby in Cape Town on Saturday.

He shone alongside fellow loose forwards Hacjivah Dayimani and Deon Fourie in the Stormers’ 34-14 Champions Cup home victory over London Irish.

Engelbrecht is no stranger to Bulls rugby as he hails from Pretoria, although he never represented the Loftus Versfeld-based outfit.

The 30-year-old played most of his rugby for the Pumas at Currie Cup level, and after an initial loan spell at the Stormers in 2021, he made a permanent switch this year.

He came into the run-on side after star number eight Evan Roos broke a rib while on duty for the Springboks against England at Twickenham last month.

Expects Bulls to show improvement

The Bulls suffered a 44-14 defeat against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park in their Champions Cup clash but Engelbrecht expects an improved display from the Stormers’ arch-rivals, especially their loose forwards.

However, Engelbrecht insists that he and his teammates are ready for the challenge.

“Our loose forwards are excellent players, and everyone has their own X-factor,” he told IOL. “The way Hacjivah is playing at the moment and Deon is inspiring everyone; it’s amazing to just play with them.

“In every game, I am just trying to back myself and keep up with them. In every game, I am just trying to back myself up and keep up with them.

“To play is important. It is not about certain guys being injured, and now it’s my chance. If I get my chance, I must use it and make every game personal for myself. I play to make myself better, not to prove other people wrong.

“We started well (against London Irish), and it fell away here and there. There isn’t a big reason for it – it’s just that when we get back to our structures and set-pieces, we get back to how we usually play, and everything went our way.”

Engelbrecht impressed on attack and defence against London Irish and scored his first Stormers try in that encounter.

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“It was something amazing, scoring my first Stormers try,” he said. “You always see it happening to other players, and then everyone from all around celebrate, and be happy with you – it was just amazing.

Taking things personal

“I take every game personally, so defence is always personal for me as well. If you run in front of me, the only thing I think about is taking you backwards.

“The Bulls-Stormers has always been a big game over the years. Like I said, I take every game personally. Taking nothing away from the Bulls, they are a good team, but if we go onto the field, it must always be personal, otherwise, rugby doesn’t mean so much to you.”