CAPE TOWN – Can the Bulls defuse the Stormers’ ‘Bomb Squad’? Well, they may have to come up with a clever plan to do just that if Jake White is to be believed.
The Bulls director of rugby, in announcing the return of Trevor Nyakane as the only change to the starting line-up for tomorrow’s Super Rugby Unlocked clash at Loftus Versfeld (7pm kickoff), thinks that the Cape side have a trick up their sleeve for their trip to Pretoria.
Stormers boss John Dobson named 11 players who could make up the eight-player bench, which included three locks in Chris van Zyl, David Meihuizen and Ben-Jason Dixon, as well as youngster Marcel Theunissen, a loose forward who can also operate in the second row.
White quipped that the Capetonians are bringing “14 locks” to Pretoria, and is anticipating a fierce forward battle as a result, which could see their opponents copy the Springboks’ six-two bench split in favour of the forwards.
“I looked at their bench and they are going to bring six forwards and two backs. I can’t remember, it’s been a long time since Province had to bring six forwards on the bench to play the Bulls pack! So, obviously we are doing something right here,” the smiling former Springbok coach said yesterday.
Skipper Duane Vermeulen giggled when asked if the Bulls will be able to defuse the Stormers’ ‘Bomb Squad’: “Rassie said going into the World Cup that he is taking a gamble, so you never know how it will play out. They’ve got a couple of backs that can play a lot of different positions, and maybe you might see a loose forward running on the wing!
“But hopefully whatever they bring, we can stop that. It all comes down to your preparation and execution on the day. We will have to wait and see how that works.”
Dobson was adamant yesterday that he was “not trying to be funny” about the make-up of the bench, explaining that it had to do with Covid-19 protocols in case a player was forced to withdraw on the eve of the match.
But he did add that he had a “good idea” of what the Stormers bench would look like, and hinted at the six-two forwards split by saying that if there had to be a thunderstorm at 6pm, he may want to use an extra forward.
Despite possessing electric backs such as Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans and David Kriel, White insisted that the match will be decided upfront.
“What I did learn (from the Stormers win over the Pumas) is that the Stormers use their scrum to get out of their half. When you’ve got guys like Bongi (Mbonambi), Kitsie (Steven Kitshoff) and Frans Malherbe, then it works for you.
“Our backs have improved. The combination of Stedman and Cornal is working well for us, and we’ve got Kurt-Lee Arendse back again. And while he hasn’t played much for us, whatever he’s done so far in a Bulls jersey has been fantastic.
15 David Kriel 14 Travis Ismaiel 13 Stedman Gans 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Morné Steyn 9 Ivan van Zyl 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Bench: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Gerhard Steenekamp 18 Marcel van der Merwe 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Embrose Papier 22 Chris Smith 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.