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Risky for Bulls coach to play Van Zyl and Steyn for Pumas dead-rubber

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It was quite a surprise to see the names of Van Zyl and Steyn in the starting line-up for the Pumas match.

Bulls coach Jake White has taken an unnecessary risk by picking firstchoice halfback pair Ivan van Zyl and Morné Steyn (pictured) for today’s dead-rubber Currie Cup clash against the Pumas in Mbombela. Picture: Christiaan Kotze, BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Bulls coach Jake White has taken an unnecessary risk by picking first choice halfback pair Ivan van Zyl and Morné Steyn for today’s dead-rubber Currie Cup clash against the Pumas in Mbombela (4pm kickoff).

A new-look team made up of several Under-21 stars and extended squad members travelled to Mpumalanga yesterday, with the likes of Clinton Swart, Tim Agaba, Joe van Zyl and Gerhard Steenekamp getting some much-needed game-time, while Arno Botha takes over the captaincy.

Yesterday, both semi-finals were shifted to a week later by SA Rugby due to the number of positive Covid-19 cases in all four squads, so the Bulls-Lions and Western Province-Sharks games will take place on January 23, with the final on January 30.

“The integrity of the Carling Currie Cup was key in our discussions, and the communication and co-operation between the four teams in the semi-finals is appreciated,” said Saru director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus.

“We’ve agreed to move out the dates of the semi-finals and the final by a week to give all the teams the best possible chance to be ready for their matches, bearing in mind we did not have the option to move it out by weeks.

“I would like to thank the semi-finalists for their co-operation in ensuring that we can see the season play out the way it should – in spite of these challenging times.”

But it was quite a surprise to see the names of Van Zyl and Steyn in the starting line-up for the Pumas match – unless the halfback duo from Wednesday’s Lions derby, Embrose Papier and Chris Smith, were unavailable due to Covid-19 protocols.

None of the Bulls management held a press conference yesterday to explain the selection of the team or the Covid-19 status of other first-choice players.

But even without Papier and Smith, there was no need to play Van Zyl and Steyn at this stage – Under-21 scrumhalf Keagan Johannes should have started at No 9, while Swart could easily have shifted to No 10.

In a statement, White said: “This is a great opportunity for us to give some of our exciting youngsters a taste of senior rugby. These boys have done really well on the training field and have been eagerly awaiting their opportunity, and now they get to show what they are made of on the big stage. It’s important that they get up to speed with their senior colleagues, while still securing a victory in Nelspruit.”

Bulls team (15-1): Clinton Swart, Jade Stighling, Marnus Potgieter, Dawid Kellerman, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Tim Agaba, Arno Botha (c), WJ Steenkamp, Janko Swanepoel, Jan Uys, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Joe van Zyl, Gerhard Steenekamp. Bench (16-23): Johan Grobbelaar, Lizo Gqoboka, Marcel van der Merwe, Divan Venter, Elrigh Louw, Keagan Johannes, Kabelo Mokoena, Jay-cee Nel. Travelling reserves: Janco Uys, Mornay Smith, Johan Mulder.