Bulls director of rugby Jake White once again bemoaned how bare his cupboard is when it comes to Springboks, but he still seemed fairly confident on Friday that his team will be able to “play some rugby” and see off the Ospreys in their United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Bulls will still field half-a-dozen Springboks in their starting XV and Morne Steyn on the bench, and White hinted that there will be no lack of ambition from his side on Saturday from 3pm.
“Ospreys drew with last season’s champions, the Stormers, which means they can play,” White said. “I know a couple of their main guys are not here, but Wales rugby is under pressure and their players could see this as an opportunity to put their hands up for national honours.
“They were tough to beat last year and I don’t foresee an easy game, but we would like to play through our centres and Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe can tick that box.
“They played three Super Rugby finals together, so imagine the hours they have spent practising and playing together, they’re probably the most experienced centre pairing in South Africa.
“And then Nizaam Carr is unbelievable on attack, he will add something running between and linking off the backline players. WJ Steenkamp as well,” White said.
With both the URC challenge and the European Rugby Champions Cup on his immediate radar, White said the Bulls had entered something of a new phase with a new generation of core players. He pointed out that when he arrived at Loftus Versfeld in 2020, his leadership group was Ivan van Zyl, Steyn, Gio Aplon, Duane Vermeulen and Arno Botha, all Springboks.
New captain and leaders
Now they have a new captain in lock Ruan Nortje, and fellow leaders in Johan Grobbelaar, Elrigh Louw, Chris Smith, Johan Goosen and Vorster.
“The whole dynamic has changed and I would like this group to have their own personality,” White said. “Ruan is quieter and doesn’t talk as much as Marcell Coetzee, but all my captains are totally and utterly driven to do well.
“But I am excited to see him stay the same Ruan Nortje, I would encourage him to bring his own personality and captaincy style.
“But South African rugby needs to find a new model post the next World Cup, we have to make sure our regions are strong, we keep our best players and keep our teams together.
“Why would we want to play in the Champions Cup if we don’t have a realistic chance of winning it? My salary cap of R70 million compared to the R180 million of Leinster or Munster, and even more for the French teams, is what I have to worry about,” White said.
Bulls: Wandisile Simelane, David Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Stravino Jacobs, Chris Smith, Embrose Papier, Elrigh Louw, WJ Steenkamp, Nizaam Carr, Ruan Nortje (c), Janko Swanepoel, Francois Klopper, Bismarck du Plessis, Gerhard Steenekamp. Bench – Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Simphiwe Matanzima, Mornay Smith, Ruan Vermaak, Cyle Brink, Zak Burger, Morne Steyn, Marco Jansen van Vuren.