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Bulls tight five boosted for Lions semi-final

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Springbok front-rower Lizo Gqoboka and lock Sintu Manjezi have been called up by Jake White to bolster the Bulls’ tight five for their Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions.

Springbok front-rower Lizo Gqoboka, pictured, and lock Sintu Manjezi have been called up by Jake White to bolster the Bulls’ tight five for their Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions. Picture: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Jake White has made the big call to start with Lizo Gqoboka at loosehead prop ahead of Jacques van Rooyen for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld (2pm kickoff).

Springbok front-rower Gqoboka has been hampered by a calf injury for much of the Covid-19 affected South African rugby season, but returned to action recently and did enough in a league game against the Lions to claim the No 1 jersey.

Van Rooyen has started in most of the Bulls’ Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup matches this season, but his form has fluctuated throughout. Gqoboka’s renowned scrummaging and contribution in the tight loose as a ball-carrier and defender would’ve counted in his favour.

White is set to explain his selections to the media later on Thursday afternoon, but made two further eye-catching choices at hooker and No 4 lock. Schalk Erasmus is highly regarded by the former Springbok coach, which has resulted in him being handed the No 2 jersey instead of Johan Grobbelaar, who has been a consistent performer.

Walt Steenkamp has been out of action for a while due to Covid-19 protocols, and the fact that he is not even on the bench suggests that he is still unavailable, which sees Sintu Manjezi partner Ruan Nortjé in the second row.

Under-21 star Stravino Jacobs was one of the better Bulls players in their last two games against the Lions and Pumas, and has been rewarded with the left wing berth, with Kurt-Lee Arendse slotting in on the right wing.

On the bench, Mornay Smith has been selected ahead of the battling Marcel van der Merwe as the back-up tighthead, while Marco Jansen van Vuren also returns as a utility back.

“We have reached the business end of the Currie Cup, and I must commend our entire squad on getting us to this point. Every player in our ranks has contributed to our cause with enthusiasm and a never-say-die attitude,” White said in a statement on Thursday.

“Focusing on this weekend has been in our minds for the last two weeks, and we have done all we can in terms of preparation. We know how to win, and we have to (do) just that against a team that has pushed us each time we’ve played them.”

Bulls Team (15-1): David Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Sintu Manjezi, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Erasmus, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: 16 Johan Grobbelaar 17 Jacques van Rooyen 18 Mornay Smith 19 Jan Uys 20 Arno Botha 21 Embrose Papier 22 Chris Smith 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.

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