Bulls rookies bring excitement ahead of Munster clash

rugby19 April 2024 12:20| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Embrose Papier © Getty Images

Three rookies in the pack, but the Vodacom Bulls are excited at the prospect of fronting up against defending Vodacom United Rugby Champions Munster at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

While scrumhalf Embrose Papier and prop Simphiwe Matanzima will both grab their 50th caps for the franchise - the former in the starting line-up and the latter on the bench, the Bulls have surprised with some selections for the clash.

The pearl-clutching folks up north of their team selection last weekend in the Investec Champions Cup may have been proven right as just two players survive last weekend’s game in Northampton - lock JF van Heerden, who gets his third straight start for the Bulls and winger Sebastian de Klerk.

But in the loose trio the selection of upstart Cameron Hanekom and Reinhardt Ludwig to partner captain Elrigh Louw is one that will raise a few eyebrows.

“There aren’t many teams that will go in against the defending champions with a 19-year old lock, two 21 year olds and a 23 year old in the loose trio,” Director of Rugby Jake White smiled when announcing the side.

“It is exciting because we have seen how Ludwig and Hanekom have grown quickly and we have seen the growth of Elrigh over the last couple of years. He too [Elrigh] was that age when he started with us. So, this is a combination I am looking forward to seeing because it has everything. It has skill, height, pace and it has youth which comes with energy,”

“We are also playing at altitude, on our field which is generally quick. So having loose forwards who can also run is also a strength for us as well.”

Van Heerden will also line up against RG Snyman, the double World Cup winning Bok, who returns to a strong Munster side.

Other than that it was the tried and tested - with World Cup winners Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Willie le Roux returning to the backline, David Kriel back at 12 and Johan Goosen and Papier resuming their halfback duties.

Then the front row of Gerhard Steenekamp, Wilco Louw and Johan Grobbelaar return with Ruan Vermaak back at 4.

With the Bulls needing a win to secure a home playoff in the quarters and semis, White underlined the need to use the home ground advantage to aid the team. .

“The one thing we know about this competition is, like any other competition, is that home-ground advantage at the end is vital. We saw what it has done for the Stormers. Not only does it have financial benefits but the fact that you then play the best teams at home and give yourself a chance to win,”

“This season is still very open, yes with a lot of permutations but all we can do is to make sure we win as many games as we can between now and the end of the regulation rounds of the league, giving ourselves the best possible chance to finish as high as possible.

"Munster are the URC champions for a reason. They beat the Stormers in Cape Town to win it and there aren’t many teams who have gotten that right,”

“It is not only their attack but they have a good team and we are going to take it like a final for us because they are - like the Stormers - the benchmark of the competition. They also know how to win in South Africa,”

“We are going to have to play well to beat them.”

Team: Willie le Roux; Sebastian de Klerk, Canan Moodie, David Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse; Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier; Elrigh Louw (captain), Reinhardt Ludwig, Cameron Hanekom, JF Van Heerden, Ruan Vermaak, Wilco Louw, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp.

Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Mornay Smith, Janko Swanepoel, Mpilo Gumede, Zak Burger, Chris Smith, Devon Williams.