Moodie owes Bulls a big game against Lyon

CANAN Moodie of the Bulls will hope to be solid in defence for the home side against Lyon today. BackpagePix

CANAN Moodie of the Bulls will hope to be solid in defence for the home side against Lyon today. BackpagePix

Published Apr 6, 2024


THERE is no doubt that Canan Moodie has all the attributes to become a world-class outside centre.

Just his size alone, at 1.91m and around 90kg, makes him an ideal contender at No 13.

The fact that he played in midfield for most of his school career, and excelled in that position for the Springboks against the All Blacks in London last year, is a good base for a future career in the middle of the backline.

But by his and Bulls coach Jake White’s own admission, the 21-year-old utility back, who has featured mainly at wing and sometimes at fullback for the Pretoria franchise, hasn’t been at his best at centre in his last two matches.

So, Moodie owes White and Bulls fans a big performance in today’s Champions Cup last-16 play-off against Lyon at Loftus Versfeld (1.30pm kick-off) after he was retained at outside centre by his own coach yesterday.

It would have been easy for White to move Moodie back to wing and reinstate Stedman Gans in the No 13 jersey, as the latter has formed a quality combination with inside centre David Kriel this season.

Instead, White opted to recall Sebastian de Klerk at right wing after he recovered from concussion, which saw him miss last week’s defeat to Leinster, with Devon Williams a bit unlucky to be shifted to the bench after starting at No 11 in Dublin.

White stated recently that Moodie’s main issues in the 31-10 win over the Dragons was in defence, which is ironic as the former Springbok mentor has said that Moodie is one of the best tacklers he’s ever coached.

But it was more the defensive reads that Moodie battled with in Newport, while the Bulls defence as a whole slipped way too many tackles against Leinster last weekend.

Moodie and the rest of the Bulls backline will have their hands full again today as the Lyon attack is loaded with serious pace, spearheaded by former Junior Springbok and Sharks flyer Thaakir Abrahams at fullback and Italian star Monty Ioane at left wing.

Even up front, Lyon have an array of speedy forwards such as former Crusaders No 8 Jordan Taufua and 20-year-old French flank Marvin Okuya, so it was understandable that White opted for some pace in his loose trio as well.

With Marco van Staden sidelined with a knee injury, co-captain Marcell Coetzee has moved to openside flank, while strapping young star Reinhardt Ludwig comes in at blindside.

That sees Elrigh Louw shifting to No 8, while the skilful Nizaam Carr is on the bench, with Mpilo Gumede the unfortunate loose forward to miss out.

Coetzee and Ludwig will provide the necessary tempo across the ground on attack and defence to put the Bulls on the front foot, and the fact that Johan Grobbelaar has been preferred to Akker van der Merwe at hooker also indicates that White expects Lyon to come out of the blocks firing.

With two jumpers in Louw and Ludwig in the loose trio, the Bulls will hope to put the Lyon line-out under pressure as well, as Ruan Nortjé and Ruan Vermaak have done well in contesting opposition throw-ins this season.

But Grobbelaar must find his touch in that regard as well, having made a few crucial overthrows in the second half against the Dragons and Leinster.

White will hope that he doesn’t need the bench to do a rescue job in the second half, but if the Bulls do need a significant impact off the bench, they have some big hitters such as Van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Carr and Williams to make a real difference in the final quarter.

Lyon, though, won’t be easy to beat, having seen off the Bulls in their last two encounters in January and December last year.

But both of those games were in France, and the Pretoria side will bank on the familiar conditions and altitude at Loftus Versfeld to aid their cause as they try to reach the Champions Cup quarter-finals for the first time, having lost to Toulouse away in the last 16 in 2023.


Bulls starting XV: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 David Kriel, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Reinhardt Ludwig, 6 Marcell Coetzee (co-capt), 5 Ruan Nortjé (co-capt), 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 JF van Heerden, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Devon Williams

Lyon starting XV: 15 Thaakir Abrahams, 14 Xavier Mignot, 13 Alfred Parisien, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Martin Page-Relo, 8 Jordan Taufua (capt), 7 Beka Saginadze, 6 Marvin Okuya, 5 Loann Goujon, 4 Theo William, 3 Paulo Tafili, 2 Guillaume Marchand, 1 Vivien Devisme

Replacements: 16 Yanis Charcosset, 17 Demba Bamba, 18 Ave Maalo, 19 Mickael Guillard, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Maxime Gouzou, 22 Ethan Dumortier, 23 Liam Rimet