Home Sport Bulls out to repeat warm-up demolition of Sharks

Bulls out to repeat warm-up demolition of Sharks

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The last time the Durban side visited Loftus Versfeld, they got hammered 49-28, with the Bulls playing an exciting attacking style in their first match under new director of rugby White.

Kurt-Lee Arendse of the Bulls and Werner Kok of the Sharks during the SuperFan Saturday match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria in September. Picture: Sydney Seshibedi, Gallo Images

GO BACK to start, and collect 49 points. No, this is not an instruction during a game of Monopoly, but rather the approach that Bulls boss Jake White has adopted for Saturday’s Super Rugby Unlocked clash against the Sharks.

The last time the Durban side visited Loftus Versfeld, they got hammered 49-28, with the Bulls playing an exciting attacking style in their first match under new director of rugby White.

But even though that was ‘only’ a warm-up game, the former Springbok coach is asking his players to reproduce that performance in Pretoria on Saturday night (7pm kick-off).

The three-time Super Rugby champions have battled to get going since, with an iffy 30-23 win over Griquas followed by last Friday’s 19-17 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Their momentum was affected by the Springbok Showdown match at Newlands following SuperFan Saturday, but now White has reverted largely to the same time from that weekend.

Apart from the absence of injured fullback Gio Aplon – with David Kriel shifting to No 15 – White restored the backline on Thursday when announcing his team, with Stedman Gans and Cornal Hendricks as the centres and Ivan van Zyl at scrumhalf.

The most significant selection may be the return from injury of Blitzbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse, who made everybody in the local rugby fraternity take notice of his speed after scoring two excellent tries from left wing against the Sharks.

He’s missed the last two Bulls matches, and will bring that cutting edge that they may have lacked in recent weeks.

“What I’d really like to see is just a little bit more cohesion. To be fair to the players, we’ve made changes, and we would like to give some players the chance to train well – but we also don’t want to lose the fact that these players haven’t played much rugby together,” White said.

“The most important thing for me this weekend is to try to get some cohesion, some rhythm in both our attack and our defence.

“We are probably more at a disadvantage than anyone else because we have such a new group – the other teams have been together longer, like Province, Sharks and Griquas.

“We understand that and it’s not an excuse, but we have to try as hard as we can to get some sort of rhythm and cohesion.

“We are still very young in terms of where we are in the evolution of our group, but it doesn’t mean that we take it as a negative or an excuse. We want to hit the ground running like we did in that Sharks warm-up game, where we played really well.

“What happened is that we probably got a bit seduced by how easy it was in that first game, and we came up against stiff opposition with line-speed after that.”

There is a familiar face back in the forwards in the shape of tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe, who has been working on his recovery from an ankle operation in the United States following his move from Toulon to the Bulls.

And youngster Elrigh Louw earns a start as well in place of Arno Botha at blindside flank, and has impressed with his ball-carrying abilities off the bench up to now.

“I’ve seen Elrigh train with the squad, and he’s got a good energy. Also a really young guy, but a confident player – loves to carry the ball, loves to defend. He’s really like a sponge, picking up on small little things.

“Exciting player, and I’m looking forward to playing with him,” Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen said on Thursday.

Bulls Team (15-1): David Kriel, Travis Ismaiel, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortjé, Jason Jenkins, Marcel van der Merwe, Johan Grobbelaar, Jacques van Rooyen.

Bench: Joe van Zyl, Gerhard Steenekamp, Trevor Nyakane, Sintu Manjezi, Arno Botha, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marco Jansen van Vuren