So, who should replace Duane Vermeulen as the skipper against Griquas and the Lions? It may initially seem an easy decision, but the workloads of the other leaders in the team will affect the log-leaders’ selection plans as well.
CAPE TOWN – JAKE White decided to give his Bulls team the day off yesterday instead of them pounding away in the gym and training field for Saturday’s clash against the Tafel Lager Griquas in Kimberley (4.30pm kick-off).
It gave the players time to recuperate from a gruelling post-Covid-19 schedule, which has seen them feature in nine matches in 10 weeks, with just a single bye so far through Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup.
There are still two games to get through, against Griquas and the Lions, before their second bye of the season on January 1-2.
It has essentially forced White to rest his captain Duane Vermeulen for these two matches, and with the bye, it will give the Springbok No 8 a three-week break before the last league encounter against the Pumas in Mbombela on January 8, ahead of the play-offs.
So, who should replace Vermeulen as the skipper against Griquas and the Lions? It may initially seem an easy decision, but the workloads of the other leaders in the team will affect the log-leaders’ selection plans as well.
Trevor Nyakane lifted the Unlocked trophy alongside Vermeulen on the podium, and is regarded as one of the seniors despite Arno Botha and Gio Aplon having been made the official vice-captains. The 31-year-old even led the Bulls in the original Super Rugby competition earlier in the year when Burger Odendaal was injured.
But a problem could be that the Springbok tighthead prop might need a break himself over the next two weeks. That’s not only due to his regular game time, but also that White may consider avoiding risking an injury to him ahead of the semi-finals, having seen back-up Marcel van der Merwe battling to settle in the scrums since a serious ankle injury.
Loose forward Botha is an official vice-captain, and is probably the man White will go for, but again, he has played regularly since the injury to youngster Elrigh Louw and could also require a breather before the play-offs.
Two somewhat left-field options could solve both of White’s problems with regards to leadership and resting players.
There have been reports of Ivan van Zyl joining English club Saracens, but as a stop-gap measure, he could be handed the captain’s armband, with Embrose Papier ready if Van Zyl were to be injured. The latter led the Pretoria side at times during last year’s Currie Cup, and is a born-and-bred Bull.
Nizaam Carr is an outside bet, as he has played mainly off the bench since arriving at Loftus Versfeld. But the 29-year-old is an experienced loose forward who earned 97 Super Rugby caps for the Stormers and has five Bok Test caps, and once captained the Cape side against the Sharks in 2015.
The final feasible option is Stedman Gans, who was the Springbok Sevens skipper earlier this year before joining the Bulls. He has been one of the standouts, but again, he probably needs to put up his feet before the semi-finals.