Johannesburg - Former SA under-20 hooker Bongi Mbonambi could make his debut this weekend in the massive Vodacom Super Rugby showdown at Newlands between the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers.
Mbonambi will definitely be on the bench after the Bulls reserve hooker Willie Wepener pulled out of the game with “an infection of the facial nerve”, with team doctor Org Strauss unable to give a timeframe on the injury.
The 21-year old Mbonambi has been playing in the Vodacom Cup and should deputise the Bulls Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle for the clash, although Ralepelle has been overcoming the effects of flu this past week.
Given the way he played against the Reds, after being flat on his back for 24 hours prior to the game, Ralepelle is unlikely to pull out a the last minute and will be relishing his chance to make another impression on the national selectors in Cape Town.
The Bulls also confirmed the bad news that flanker Deon Stegmann was ruled out of the weekend’s clash, leaving them to revert to the same loose trio who took apart the Reds attacking lines for this weekend’s clash.
CJ Stander will once again stand in at openside flank, where he has done a good job since Stegmann has missed the last two matches with a hamstring injury.
But in a clash like this, where inches will make the difference, the Bulls are looking forward to seeing what Mbonambi can do – especially as the nuggety hooker has been known for his firey and passionate performances at junior level.
One man who has no doubts about Mbonambi’s talent, is Bulls defensive coach John McFarland.
“He has improved immensely and he is one of the guys we earmarked during the off-season to be part of our Super Rugby squad. In last year’s under-21 Currie Cup final he had a major influence winning turnovers, his accuracy in the lineouts and his general work rate and that also showed when he played for the national team. He is certainly one for the future, an extremely hard working guy and it is pleasing to see him get an opportunity at this level,” said McFarland.
Mbonambi, a former scholar of St Alban’s College in Pretoria, is likely to be the only change to the Bulls match 22 which demolished the Reds 61-8 at Loftus last Saturday.