Ludwig replaces injured Elrigh and Willie plays impact role

rugby01 March 2024 12:01| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Reinhardt Ludwig © Blue Bulls rugby

Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White has called up Reinhardt Ludwig as his starting blindside flank for Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby against the DHL Stormers at Loftus on Saturday.

A shoulder injury to Elrigh Louw has necessitated a back reshuffle for the Bulls, with co-captain Marcell Coetzee taking up No 8 and the two metre-tall Ludwig, who is normally a lock, slotting in at No 7. Former Stormers player Nizaam Carr joins former Durbanite Mpilo Gumede as loose-forward cover on the bench.

“Elrigh has an injured shoulder joint. Having an injured shoulder impacts on your running, your tackling and your carrying, and those are Elrigh’s strengths, and if you take out the shoulders that doesn’t leave you with much,” said White.

“I have learned in my time in coaching that you never get a full 23, there is always some player who gets injured that forces you to change the dynamic and the combinations. I’ve said it before, we’ve just got to pitch up and control what we can control, we must just make sure we don’t deliver the soft moments that the Stormers have feasted on in these games in the past.”

By White’s own admission, Ludwig wasn’t good the previous occasion the Bulls played him as a blindside flank, but White said more thought had been given to combinations this time and he had been clearer with the player about what was expected of him.

“It is a different combination he is part of now, and he’s a bit older now. He might struggle a bit with some things, but I have a lot of faith in him. You never know, sometimes these things just work out. I remember when I was at the Sharks trying a young Pieter-Steph du Toit on the flank and everyone thought I was mad. They said he was a lock. But the player went on to play in and win two World Cup finals as a flank.

“For a loosie, Reinhardt is relatively quick even though he is a lock. He also has game awareness and intelligence; he doesn’t make mistakes. And it will be good to see him playing in tandem with Marcell. We will have two players over two metres in the lineouts, and that will hopefully put pressure on the Stormers.”

The need to put pressure on the Stormers and be calm in the later stages of the game, which has been where the Stormers have tended to be smarter than the Bulls in recent seasons, is what explains White’s decision to play the Springbok World Cup winner off the bench in this game. Experienced hooker Akker van der Merwe is also playing off the bench, along with another Bok in Carr.

“Akker, Willie and Nizaam are three experienced Springboks. These games are usually close, there’s not usually more than one score in it, so to have the experience of those Boks coming on will be vital for us,” said White.

“You would have seen the massive impact made by Akker and (Johan) Goosen last time out (against the Emirates Lions). We have identified from previous games against the Stormers that the guys have to be a lot more street-smart about what they (the Stormers) are trying to do.”

White added that with Ruan Vermaak and Ruan Nortje also back in the mix, there have been five changes to the pack that played and lost to the Stormers two days before Christmas. He said he hoped that would make a difference, but he refused to amp the pressure on his team, something he has been fairly consistent with through the buildup week to a game that will be played in front of a 50 000-strong crowd.

“This is not a make-or-break game for us, we want to see where we are, how much progress we have made. Don’t forget they also have a good team,” he said.

The 2007 Bok World Cup-winning coach added that he was very excited to see how his players adjusted to playing in front of a crowd of 50 000.

“If three years ago you told me we would be playing a pool game against the Stormers in front of such a big crowd I would have laughed at you. That is credit to both teams and what they have done.”

TEAM: Devon Williams (Paarl Boys High), Kurt-Lee Arendse (Paulus Joubert High School), Stedman Gans (Laerskool Vredenburg), David Kriel (Eikestad Primary), Canan Moodie (Boland Landbou), Johan Goosen (Grey College), Embrose Papier (Hoerskool Garsfontein), Marcell Coetzee (co-captain, Suid-Natal Primary), Reinhardt Ludwig (Afrikaans Hoer Seunskool), Marco van Staden (Hoerskool Bekker), Ruan Nortje (co-captain, Hoerskool Wonderboom), Ruan Vermaak (Wysneusies), Wilco Louw (Laerskool Wolsely/HTS Drostdy), Johan Grobbelaar (Paarl Gymnasium), Gerhard Steenekamp (Laerskool Mooirivier). Replacements: Akker van der Merwe (Laerskool George Suid), Simiphiwe Matanzima (Queens College), Francois Kloppers (Winterton Primary School), JF van Heerden (Grey College), Nizaam Carr (Bishops), Mpilo Gumede (Durban High School), Zak Burger (Paarl Gymnasium), Willie le Roux (Locnerhof Primary School).