Van Staden back for Bulls ahead of massive semifinal

rugby14 June 2024 11:00| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
article image
Jake White © Gallo Images

The Vodacom Bulls revealed two more injury concerns while making minimal changes to their side to face Irish juggernaut Leinster in their crucial Vodacom United Rugby Championship semifinal at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

World Cup winner Marco van Staden comes back into the squad to boost their forward pack while at the back Devon Williams replaces the injured Kurt-Lee Arendse, but there was no expected return for regular captain Marcell Coetzee to the side for the big game.

There was also the news that winger Sebastian de Klerk, who played last week as a replacement for another World Cup winner in Canan Moodie, had also picked up an injury. So in the end Sergeal Peterson, who replaced Arendse in the quarterfinal against Benetton during the game, is retained and Devon Williams is hurried back from an injury to replace De Klerk on the other wing.

The injuries are hardly the ideal preparation for the big match, while Leinster named a side that included 10 starters from Ireland’s last Six Nations match.

One of the surprises came on the bench where Cornel Smit, who was part of a swap deal for Wandisile Simelane earlier in the season with the DHL Stormers comes onto the bench as cover.

Smit, the former Bishops and SA Schools midfielder, had made quite an impression on White, so much so that he had no issues with bringing him to make his debut for the Bulls in such a big game.

“Cornel has trained really well. I’ve been saying to him just be patient, just be patient and now he gets a chance to play in a semifinal against an Irish backline. That’s what sport is all about. It is no use me telling him you will get a chance and when it comes I go another route,” White explained.

“He is helluva excited, he has been around a bit, he played SA Schools and is a goalkicker. He has some skill, he is quick, and it probably helps because Jacques (Nienaber) and Leinster probably didn’t expect him to play so I know there is no video work they can do on him. Who knows, maybe he has the game of his life tomorrow and then everyone knows who he is.”


Coetzee did ask not to play, even though White said technically he could have gotten him onto the field, but the Bulls captain put his hand up and believes he is not 100 per cent fit quite yet.

“I probably could have played him (Coetzee). Credit to him though, he just doesn’t want to be a yard slow and not be where he needs to be and allow Leinster an advantage. The way Leinster play, he has to be all over the field. Him carrying the ball or making a tackle is the easy part, but the way Leinster play - against Toulouse - Jordan Lamour touched the ball 14 times and James Lowe touched the ball 11 times.

“That’s 25 times the wingers touched the ball. If you have loose forwards who are not filling the field defensively then you basically help them expose you on the outside.”

The return of Van Staden, though, was a positive for the Bulls and White was very happy to have him back, especially given the threat of Josh van der Flier.

“Leinster hold onto the ball. If you are comfortable with giving them the ball they will hold it for 20 phases, so you have to find a way of getting it back. And you have to be accurate at the breakdown as well. It is easy to say go hard at the breakdown but if you give a penalty away I can guarantee you they’re kicking to the corner.

“It is nice to have Marco back, because he has experience and played at the World Cup and he also wants to play in two weeks time. He wants to be in the test team against Ireland as well. I sense with a guy like him, it is almost like a trial for him as well.”

Meanwhile, Leinster made just one change to their starting lineup, with star midfielder Garry Ringrose returning to the team to take on the Bulls.

James Ryan captains the team once more, with Ringrose starting at outside centre, and Robbie Henshaw moving to the inside.

Among the replacements, Jack Conan returns after missing last weekend’s win, while Jamie Osborne moves to the bench following Ringrose’s return.

Leinster have a massive 1522 caps in the starting line-up with another 1088 on the bench, making it probably the most experienced club side ever to have visited Loftus Versfeld.

Vodacom Bulls v Leinster

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

Kick off: 4pm

Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU, 45th league game)

AR 1: Mike Adamson (SRU) AR 2: Adam Jones (WRU)

TMO: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

Live on: SuperSport

VODACOM BULLS: Willie Le Roux, Sergeal Petersen, David Kriel, Harold Vorster, Devon Williams, Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier; Cameron Hanekom, Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje (capt), Ruan Vermaak, Wilco Louw, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp

REPLACEMENTS: Akker van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Reinhardt Ludwig, Nizaam Carr, Keagan Johannes, Chris Smith, Cornel Smit

LEINSTER: Jimmy O’Brien, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Ryan Baird, James Ryan (capt), Joe McCarthy, Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter.

REPLACEMENTS: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Ciarán Frawley, Jamie Osborne