The Vodacom Bulls are eyeing the scalp of their round 5 hosts, Edinburgh as the South Africans look to complete their European travels with another successful showing in the 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship. The Tshwane-based outfit has already raked up 10 points on the road and will be hunting for more in the Scottish capital.
Kick-off at the Hive Stadium is set for 19h35 local time (21h35 in South Africa) and will be broadcast live on SuperSport Rugby.
There are a number of changes made to matchday 23 with the exception of the backline which will see the services of Sergeal Petersen and Sebastian de Klerk retained on the wings with David Kriel and Stedman Gans combining at the centre once more whilst Mr. Consistency, Devon Williams continues to shine at fullback.
Scrumhalf, Embrose Papier will have Johan Goosen (flyhalf) as partner at halfback. Ahead of the Papier/Goosen duo will be a forward pack led by loose-head prop, Gerhard Steenekamp, alongside hooker, Johan Grobbelaar and tight-head prop Wilco Louw. Behind the powerful trio will be the lock combination of Ruan Vermaak alongside his co-captain and namesake, Ruan Nortje. Nortje will bind with – his co-captain – Marcell Coetzee who will run at blind-side flank with Elrigh Louw manning the openside flank position.
Cameron Hanekom will continue with his impressive start to the season running out as the herd’s dominant eighth man.
The Vodacom Bulls Director of Rugby, Jake White has opted to deploy a 6-2 split bench once more with Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Jaco van der Walt set to feature for the men in blue for the first time this season. Simphiwe Matanzima, Mornay Smith, Reinhardt Ludwig, Nizaam Carr, Keagan Johannes and Cyle Brink complete the impact ensemble.
Asked about the changes made to the matchday 23, White remarked: “It’s just normal rotation. Next week we have Connacht, then Saracens and then the Sharks await, so we have a rough month ahead of us, so we would like to keep guys fresh and also give guys opportunity because they have trained hard in the pre-season,”
“We have been very fortunate that we have played 32 of the 33 players who we have here on tour and that is great because we also have to make sure that all our guys are match-ready. We need to keep them fresh and it’s basically controlling what we can from our camp.”
Asked about going into the round at the top of the log, White said there is a lot for his side that is on offer. An opportunity for the Vodacom Bulls to remain at the top of the log after five rounds.
“It is nice to be top of the log but as I have said before, we have to learn from the past. Munster/Ulster were nowhere after five rounds last season, the Stormers were nowhere after round 5 in year one of the competition. It is still early days so it is not a given that you will be there at the back end of the competition if you are at the top in the early parts of the competition,”
“But it is nice, it is nice that we are there and we are there at the end of our tour and we have gotten there rotating our squad too.”
On expectations against Edinburgh: “I am expecting a very tough game with 13 Scottish internationals in their starting XV, they have massive amounts of experience. The return of Jamie Ritchie will also be a massive boost for them who has been away after the World Cup. They are generally always there or thereabout in the top eight, they are not a team that surprises everybody by finishing in the top part of the draw,”
“It’s going to be a tough game for us considering we are into our fourth week of the tour which is always tough because people start making plans about going back to South Africa. So there are a lot of things we are going to have to make sure we get right tomorrow.”
Asked about coming up against Sean Everitt who was at Loftus at the end of last season, the Vodacom Bulls mentor said: “I worked with Sean at the Sharks and when he was with us, so I know him very well. He is a very good coach who has been around for a while. Good coaches are the ones who can adapt and I think it will be interesting and I look forward to it.”
VODACOM BULLS vs EDINBURGH RUGBY STARTING XV: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Johan Grobbelaar, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Ruan Vermaak, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marcell Coetzee (c), 7. Elrigh Louw, 8. Cameron Hanekom, 9. Embrose Papier, 10. Johan Goosen, 11. Sergeal Petersen, 12. David Kriel, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sebastian de Klerk, 15. Devon Williams
VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Simphiwe Matanzima, 17. Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18. Mornay Smith, 19. Reinhardt Ludwig, 20. Nizaam Carr, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Jaco van der Walt, 24. Cyle Brink
** Brink is player 23 but will run out in jersey 24 because of size constraints
MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Chris Rossouw – Assistant Coach, Gary Gold – Assistant Coach, Andries Bekker – Assistant Coach, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr. Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Darryn Berry – Physiotherapist, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, Yusuf Vahed – Sport Scientist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager
Issued by: Blue Bulls Rugby – Communications
IMAGE CREDITS:© Vodacom Bulls