Tough decisions await for White in Currie Cup

rugby09 May 2023 06:42| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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The Vodacom Bulls © Getty Images

A write-off or throw everything at the Currie Cup?

The Vodacom Bulls would have regrouped on Monday after their exit out of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with this question in mind.

With a crucial battle ahead against Griquas in Kimberley - a traditional burying ground for teams in the premier domestic competition, the Bulls need to make some decisions as to who will be available for them for the rest of the Currie Cup campaign and who won’t.

The Bulls are lying second last in the Currie Cup in what has been a very disjointed season that has seen new coach Edgar Marutlulle demoted after four losses and while there was a brief burst in form thereafter, the successive losses to WP and the Sharks have now put them in danger of finishing near the bottom of the log.

The Bulls are the only team in the Currie Cup among the big four that make it clear they want to win the competition and don’t see it as a development vehicle for younger players.

Their coaching team includes former Springbok and Ireland assistant coach Gert Smal and former Sharks coach Sean Everitt, and given both their playing stocks and coaching credentials, their current log position is more than just a disappointment around Loftus Versfeld.

But now with the URC out of the way, the Bulls need to decide - do they slog on after a long and disappointing season and try and force their way into the playoffs and hope for a run of form to take them to the title, or do they continue to develop youngsters and look to the future rather than pack their side with URC stars?


That’s the tough decision for Jake White especially as several players are reaching their sell-by date. Morne Steyn has already indicated he will retire at the end of the season, Bismarck du Plessis is likely to follow him as well.

There are question-marks over the future of others - like Lionel Mapoe, Cornal Hendricks and Nizaam Carr - all big names who have been good for the Bulls over the years but this season have struggled to keep the same form and given their age will need to make decisions sooner rather than later.

And then there are the URC players. No player has played more rugby over the past two seasons than Ruan Nortje. His 80 minute exploits are the wonder of the competition but it is clear that he desperately needs a rest, and some time in the gym to work on explosive power.

Nortje is unlikely to make the Bok squad at the moment, and White had already indicated last season that he needs to bulk up to become a test quality lock.

Should the Bulls therefore rest him now for the rest of the season and give him time to do that, or does he try and win the Currie Cup?

With Marcell Coetzee back the answer should be relatively obvious, but there are also a lot of other players who can do with a break - none the least Elrigh Louw, Harold Vorster and David Kriel, all of whom have played a lot during the season.


And while rest is one thing, do the Bulls risk squad unhappiness by bringing in a bulk of URC players into the Currie Cup? Or do they supplement what they have and try and get form back by concentrating on those already in the squad.

It is no surprise that the biggest disappointments of the season have been both Johan Goosen and Jacques du Plessis, with Wandisile Simelane just behind them.

Goosen and Du Plessis have both struggled with injury, but haven’t made the impact White would have wanted from them. Simelane looks happy when playing centre but hasn’t made much of an impact when at wing or fullback. The move to Loftus seems to have left him in limbo and he desperately needs to show the form that made him a Bok squad member two seasons ago.


There are similar arguments around the park. Embrose Papier has hit form, but do you play him or give Keegan Johannes more time to develop? And what of Bernard van der Linde and Zak Burger?

With Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden at the Boks for the forseeable future, what will the back three look like and who takes the poacher role?

These are all questions that need to be answered.

But first White and co need to decide, can they win the Currie Cup or not? They would know the permutations and the mental fatigue in their own squad.

If it isn’t a reality, perhaps it would be better to use the time to build for next season?