Bulls youngsters to get a shot
Johannesburg - The Vodacom Bulls are set to hand Super Rugby debuts to two young players this weekend when they head to Cape Town for their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Stormers at Newlands.
According to the supersport.com website, both SA under-20 lock Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Tuks flank Roelof Smit are likely to be among the reserves as the Bulls look to patch up the cracks left by injuries after a long and arduos Super Rugby season.
And there will be no rest for the weary. As predicted the Bulls will use all their Springboks for the game which they need to win with a bonus point to continue their mathematical hope of making the playoffs.
While that hope remains and may be a long shot, the Bulls may want to consider the fact they still haven’t won an away game in this year’s competition, falling both overseas and in Durban, Bloemfontein and Johannesburg when they have played there.
The traditional derby against the Stormers will lift them, but to go and get a bonus point win will be a massive ask, especially against a Stormers team which seems to have found form in the past few weeks before the June break.
Still, the injuries to Flip van der Merwe and Jacques du Plessis will be covered pretty easily as Paul Willemse will slot in at lock in one of his last performances for the Bulls and Jacques Engelbrecht is set to move to blindside flank to fill in the gap left by Du Plessis.
That will give the Bulls an option to play workmanlike Grant Hattingh at eight again, with Jono Ross reverting to six for the match.
But against a Stormers team that is good at the breakdown they will have their work cut out for them, especially as it is unlikely they will start with the nuggety Bongi Mbonambi and rather go with Callie Visagie once more.
Ironically while the injuries have given the Bulls an opportunity to blood some youngsters, they will have their hand almost forced by the Springbok call-ups.
The fact that Heyneke Meyer gave both Marcel van der Merwe and Handre Pollard test caps before they commanded a starting spot in the Bulls line-up shows just how conservative the Bulls have been in selection and that is underlined when it comes to the uniquely talented SA under-20 utility back Jesse Kriel, who still fails to get a chance despite being one of the best players in the IRB Junior World Championship.
Kriel is likely to have to wait until the Absa Currie Cup to get a run, and then he may still play second fiddle to Jurgen Visser in his favoured fullback spot, while he may have been playing Super Rugby already at other franchises.
The Bulls have also changed their strict weekly programme to only name the side on Thursday, a strange deviation as they keep religiously to their programme normally, even on public holidays and famously this year scheduled their team announcement on the day of the elections, while the rest of the country was off voting.