Home Sport Bulls beefed up by Nortje, Van Staden after long layoff

Bulls beefed up by Nortje, Van Staden after long layoff

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The Bulls will be delighted to welcome back from injury their captain, lock Ruan Nortje, and World Cup-winning flanker Marco van Staden. Both have been out for a month and their experience was sorely missed when the Bulls slipped up against Munster in Pretoria a few weeks ago.

Ruan Nortje of the Vodacom Bulls. Picture: Steve Haag Sports, INPHO, Shutterstock, BackpagePix (13773583o)

Mike Greenaway

The Lions and the Bulls have entered a crucial fortnight of home United Rugby Championships matches although the goals of the Gauteng rivals are slightly different.

The 11th-placed Lions have to beat Cardiff this week and the Glasgow Warriors the week after to have a shot at making the quarter-finals while the Bulls have a loftier goal. If they can beat the Warriors on Saturday and Benetton next week they will consolidate fourth place with its reward of a home quarter-final.

To that end, the Bulls will be delighted to welcome back from injury their captain, lock Ruan Nortje, and World Cup-winning flanker Marco van Staden. Both have been out for a month and their experience was sorely missed when the Bulls slipped up against Munster in Pretoria a few weeks ago.

A Munster side packed with Ireland internationals was too clever for the Bulls in the final quarter. Nortje and Van Staden will add confidence to the Bulls when they host current log leaders Glasgow.

The Scotland team leapfrogged Leinster when they beat Zebre and the latter lost to the Stormers in Cape Town. Glasgow fullback Josh McKay says Munster’s defeats of the Bulls and the Lions have given his team a boost.

“Absolutely. There’s a lot of belief in this group,” McKay said.

“Everyone is motivated. It would be a massive step forward for the club. But we’ve still got a big job ahead of us in South Africa and back at home when we play Zebre again.

“There are still three big games left and the excitement is there in the group to go and do the job. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot to go deep into this competition.

“You definitely can’t take that for granted. We’re all riding it until the end, everyone is going all in on it. We’re no longer in Europe.

“I think the way the competition is going to finish up leading into play-offs will suit us with a couple of weeks off where we can hone in on the training but also get fresh with no games at the weekend.

“South Africa is going to be huge for us and can be a good springboard into the tail end of the season.”

With home advantage so valued by all teams, the Warriors are eyeing that home spot for a potential run to the final, with them having last lost at home to the Northampton Saints in the Champions Cup.

“Of course, any team is going to want to play at home over going away, aren’t they? We would love to play as many games at home as possible in front of our friends and family,” McKay said.

“But we don’t want to look at it from far back, we just want to take it one game at a time and by doing that, to keep it simple, we’ve just got to keep winning, not get too far ahead of ourselves.

“I think coach Franco (Smith) has done a good job at blooding a lot of players. A lot of players are not just getting one or two games a season, a lot are getting good-quality minutes and when they step in, they’re doing a good job. The depth is crucial … you need a good squad to go deep into these competitions.”

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