The Vodacom Bulls were dealt a blow when scrumhalf Embrose Papier was ruled out of their Currie Cup semifinal against the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday.
Papier picked up a hamstring strain in the league match last weekend, which the Cheetahs won 31-27 at Loftus Versfeld and was ruled out on Friday by coach Jake White.
Keegan Johannes comes into the side as his replacement as one of four changes to the side that lost last weekend’s encounter at Loftus.
Elrigh Louw, who was red carded during the encounter, and had his red card rescinded by a disciplinary committee, starts at eight in a boost to the side while White has made some other interesting changes to try and counter the Cheetahs speed.
For one, Nizaam Carr comes into the side in the place of Cyle Brink, who drops out of the 23 man squad altogether. WJ Steenkamp has been included on the bench by White.
Johan Grobbelaar starts at hooker, replacing Jan-Hendrik Wessels, who drops to the bench while Chris Smith is back at 10 after Morne Steyn started last week in the jersey in his last game for the Bulls.
White said that losing Papier was a loss for the team but that he was confident Johannes would rise to the occasion.
“Embrose has been playing really well and is obviously a loss for us. Saying that in training, we have been training with Keegan and Bernard van der Linde at 9, so they’ve been in the groove, so to speak, at training sessions. We’d love to have had Embrose available but I’ve learnt as a coach there is very seldom a time when you have your preferred team run out on a Saturday,” White said.
“It is wonderful to have Elright back after he got off the red card. We had to play the game last week with 14 men for 45 minutes and it was tough, so it is nice to have him back as he is important to us.”
White said that Johannes and Smith had trained together as a combination for a long time and he didn’t see the changes as a drawback.
“Chris was 10 against Leinster last season and Keegan was the starting nine in the first game against Leinster in the opening round of the URC,” White said.
“So while we have had Johan Goosen running with Embrose a lot at training, opposing them have been Chris and Keegan as a combination. They may not have played a lot together but they have trained a lot as a combination.”
Carr’s inclusion has been to try and counter the speed that the Cheetahs have at the breakdown as the Bulls were well beaten there last weekend.
“Nizaam has played really well and as a combination they are really nicely balanced. I think WJ Steenjamp on the bench offers us more at the back of the game and nothing against Cyle, who has played very well and has had a lot of starts, but Nizaam as an extra attacking cog is probably what we need this weekend,” White explained.
Vodacom Bulls: Johan Goosen, Cornal Hendricks, Stedman Gans, Harold Vorster, David Kriel; Chris Smith, Keegan Johannes; Elrigh Louw, Nizaam Carr, Marcell Coetzee (captain), Ruan Nortje, Ruan Vermaak, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: Simphiwe Matanzima, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Francois Klopper, Janko Swanepoel, WJ Steenkamp, Bernard van der Linde, Sibongile Novuka, Wandisile Simelane.