Two enforced changes as Bulls remember "Rainbow Cup lesson"

rugby07 June 2024 12:00
By:Brenden Nel
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Bulls @ getty images

The Vodacom Bulls will remember the “Rainbow Cup lesson” when they head into the Vodacom United Rugby Championship quarterfinal clash with Italian side Benetton at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls, who made two enforced changes to their side that beat the Hollywoodbets Sharks 26-14 in Durban last week, are firm favourites to win the quarterfinal at home against a side they beat handily three weeks ago at the same venue.

The Bulls brought in veteran former Springbok Nizaam Carr into the loose trio to replace Marco van Staden, who was injured in the Durban game, while Sebastian de Klerk replaces Canan Moodie on the wing, with the Bulls losing two World Cup winners in the process.

On the bench the shifts mean that Jannes Kirsten will take the substitute flanker role while veteran Sergeal Petersen gets his name into the match 23 as wing/fullback replacement.

Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has given players a message to concentrate on the game at hand and remember the lesson they learnt in underestimating Benetton in the Rainbow Cup a few years back. The Bulls were soundly beaten, even though they were favourites, and lost a one-sided contest 35-8 where they were expected to win.

“That is still there in a lot of ways. I tell you what, as a coach, that will always be remembered, because people thought we should have won that. We were 50 points ahead a few weeks ago and we won 56-35 against them. For those 20 minutes they came back at us they were very good.

“Sometimes when you look at those games, it's funny how those games help us with our preparation. I don’t have to say be careful, they can play - because they have seen it. I don’t have to say be careful, they can beat us, because they have done it.

“All I have to do is just reaffirm that with them in the team talks all week. I just tell them to remember and most of them were part of that experience. They beat us convincingly in the Rainbow Cup. They played really well in that 20 minute block when we had them dead and buried. So we know, we still need to get the job done.”

While the Bulls will be missing the two World Cup winners, White has the fullest confidence in the players that are replacing them.

“Nizaam - interesting stat - has probably been the most effective at the breakdown for us - he hasn’t given penalties away. What we lost with Marco is physical, because he is always over the ball. And he does tend to give penalties away because he has a go at it. Nizaam accurately had been better as an openside flanker.

“Who knows? Maybe he is playing for a reason. They style we are playing against Benetton, his skillset and the fact he is accurate at the breakdown, maybe it is getting horses for courses right without having the option.”

White also said the squad is in better shape overall to compensate for the loss of the players.

“It is interesting because this time last year I would have said if we lose two World Cup winners, what do we do now? But at the beginning of the year I said this year we will change our squad and rotate. Sebastian has played many games, so he comes in. Nizaam has played many games and he comes in.

“It takes away the fact that you’ve lost Canan and Marco, World Cup winners, but I’m in a much better place to be comfortable to make those changes if someone is not available. Whoever is playing will do the job anyway. That’s the confidence I get from the team, from the changes and the results speak for themselves. Those guys have done well when they played.”

Meanwhile Benetton have named a tough side, with former All Black and Tongan international Malakai Fekitoa returning to partner Ignacio Brex in the midfield.

Despite that Benetton coach Marco Bortolami believes the forwards will decide the outcome.

“The clash between the two forward packs will be decisive and for this reason we have opted to go to the bench with the 6 plus 2. There are also some changes to inject fresh and new energy from the first minute and the other boys will come off the bench to finish the job. Between the backs we chose to move Menoncello as a winger and insert Fekitoa in the centre to add the maximum physicality possible. Furthermore, Malakai gives us a lot of experience having already played matches of this caliber many times; I'm sure he will make a great contribution”

Vodacom Bulls v Benetton

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

Kick off: 3:30pm

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU, 82nd game)

AR 1: Sam Grove-White (SRU) AR 2: Adam Jones (WRU)

TMO: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

Vodacom Bulls: Willie Le Roux, Sebastian de Klerk, David Kriel, Harold Vorster, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier, Cameron Hanekom, Elrigh Louw, Nizaam Carr, Ruan Nortje (capt), Ruan Vermaak, Wilco Louw, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp.

Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Reinhardt Ludwig, Jannes Kirsten, Keagan Johannes, Chris Smith, Sergeal Petersen

Benetton: Rhyno Smith, Tommaso Menoncello, Malakai Fekitoa, Ignacio Brex, Onisi Ratave, Tomas Albornoz, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi, Michele Lamaro (capt), Alessandro Izekor, Federico Ruzza, Edoardo Iachizzi, Simione Ferrari, Bautista Bernasconi, Thomas Gallo.

Replacements: Gianmarco Lucchesi, Mirco Spagnolo, Giosuè Zilocchi, Eli Snyman, Niccolò Cannone, Lorenzo Cannone, Alessandro Garbisi, Jacob Umaga