'Clever' Willie debuts for Bulls as Boks return
Two-time Springbok World Cup winner Willie le Roux will make his debut for the Vodacom Bulls in Saturday’s home Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash with Connacht at Loftus.
Le Roux was one of several players recruited to the Bulls in the offseason and should add to an already potent counter-attacking ability for the Pretoria franchise, who also have additional Bok back-three players on their books in the form of Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie.
The former is not part of the team to play Connacht, with Sergeal Petersen instead getting the opportunity to continue where he left off with his excellent performance against Edinburgh last week. Moodie is in the match-day 23 as a member of the reserve bench and it will be interesting to see if White deploys him in a back three positions, where he has played most of his franchise rugby, or in the midfield where he has featured latterly for the Boks.
VAN STADEN'S RETURN IS FORTUITOUS
The other returning Bulls Bok is Marco van Staden, and it is fortuitous for White to have him available again this week as he will be the perfect replacement for Marcell Coetzee. The Bulls co-captain has been slapped with a three-match suspension by a URC disciplinary committee following his red card for a dangerous tackle against Edinburgh.
Van Staden didn’t feature for the Boks towards the end of their successful World Cup campaign so he should be hungry for rugby after performing well at international level when he did play.
Another newcomer for the Bulls, at least to the starting team, is Jaco van der Walt, the Scotland-capped former Lions and Edinburgh flyhalf who played as a replacement for the injured Johan Goosen in the second half of last week’s 31-23 loss to Edinburgh at The Hive.
🚨 TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 🚨— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) November 24, 2023
The World Cup Winners are BACK! 🏆
Willie Le Roux makes his debut 🔥
🎟️ Tickets: https://t.co/pQ9zq8ddBp
🐂 Vodacom Bulls vs Connacht
🗓️ 25 November 2023
📍 Loftus Versfeld Stadium #BackTheBulls@Vodacom #URC pic.twitter.com/NKKE59J1ZX
EXCITED ABOUT LE ROUX'S ABILITY AND BRAIN
There are plenty of reasons for White to feel excited about the team he has assembled, but he appears most excited about the contribution that can be made by Le Roux.
“I have never coached him but I watched him play as an under-19 in the Boland and never realised he would end up being what he is now,” said White.
“He has only been with us for a week but it feels like he’s been here for six months. He is unbelievable. He is like having an extra coach in the group. He is very clever and also extremely skilful. I cannot wait to see how he goes because I am sure people will see the value that he brings.
“To all his critics I will just ask that you lay it off because he is probably one of the best if not the best player to have played for the Boks and if he is not the best then he is definitely the cleverest.”
BIG RESPECT FOR OPPOSITION
The Bulls face the Hollywoodbets Sharks in an eagerly awaited derby next weekend and it appears the Sharks have picked their team for Saturday’s clash with the Dragons around the need to get their Boks sharp in time for the Loftus clash. However, White is mindful of how dangerous looking too far ahead might be when your immediate opponent is Connacht.
“They (Connacht) are a good team, you do not win in Durban shortly after flying into the country if you are not a good team,” said the Bulls’ director of rugby.
“They are certainly one of the most in-form teams in the competition at the moment. I know Andy Friend (Connacht’s ex-coach) well, and I think they have changed a few things. They are a difficult team to beat and they beat us by playing direct rugby when we played them away from home (in the first season of the URC). We saw that again last week, once they get close to the line they go for it.”
White added that instead of wanting to rest another week, the Bulls’ returning Boks were all very eager to get back onto the playing field.
“The excitement and energy they bring is nice,” said White.
TEAM: Willie le Roux, Sebastien de Klerk, Stedman Gans, David Kriel, Sergeal Petersen, Jaco van der Walt, Zak Burger, Nizaam Carr, Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje (captain), Reinhardt Ludwig, Wilco Louw, Akker van der Merwe, Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: Simphiwe Matanzima, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Mornay Smith, Janko Swanepoel, Cyle Brink, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Canan Moodie.