‘New Pieter-Steph’ Ludwig can help Bulls end Stormers hoodoo

REINHARDT Ludwig, seen here in full cry against the Stormers last December, picks things up quickly and doesn’t make mistakes, says Bulls coach Jake White. Photo: BackpagePix

REINHARDT Ludwig, seen here in full cry against the Stormers last December, picks things up quickly and doesn’t make mistakes, says Bulls coach Jake White. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 2, 2024


WITH 12 players in the Bulls match-23 being Springboks, you wouldn’t have expected the Pretoria side to look to a 21-year-old forward for inspiration to finally beat the Stormers.

But perhaps that is exactly the point of difference Jake White’s team needs in today’s much-anticipated United Rugby Championship showdown in front of 50 000 spectators at a sold-out Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

Reinhardt Ludwig has been excellent as a No 4 lock this season, but was handed the responsibility of the No 7 jersey by White when he named his team yesterday.

Part of the reason for the selection was the fact that Elrigh Louw is nursing an AC joint injury in the shoulder, but it is also about presenting a fresh challenge for the marauding Stormers loose trio of Deon Fourie, Evan Roos and Hacjivah Dayimani.

White was honest about the fact that Louw hasn’t quite been his dominant self in previous encounters against the Stormers, and that a Bulls loose-trio combination of Marco van Staden, Ludwig and Marcell Coetzee at No 8 may do the trick in trying to end a seven-match losing streak against their great rivals.

“Reinhardt Ludwig has played seven for us – he hasn’t played as well as I’d like him to (in that position). It’s a different (loose forward) combination now,” White said yesterday.

“He’s a bit older... You don’t want to make comparisons to some players who are phenomenal, but I coached Pieter-Steph du Toit and I moved him to seven when I was at the Sharks.

“And I remember when I moved him, people asked me the same question: it’s quite a big call for him to play at seven – and he went on to become the best player in the world.

“So, I’ve seen this movie before. And yes, he (Ludwig) might struggle a bit tomorrow – a big game, 50 000 people, a youngster. But I have full faith in him. There is a lot of things he is going to add to us. He is very clever, he works incredibly hard.

“He’s got a work-rate. He’s not slow – as a loose forward, he’s relatively quick, even though he is a lock playing at loose forward.

“And the thing I really enjoy about him is that he’s got game awareness and intelligence. He picks up things quickly, he doesn’t make mistakes. He’s that sort of guy, and I am glad that he can play with guys like Marcell and Marco, two Springboks.”

But of course, there are still several other big hitters across the Bulls side that need to spark their team into action against the Stormers.

White remarked earlier in the week that the Bulls haven’t produced their best rugby against the Cape side in recent years, compared to performances against the other URC teams.

The former Bok coach added yesterday that sometimes even experienced campaigners like Willie le Roux have made critical mistakes at vital moments, and that the Bulls had a late five-metre attacking lineout to set up a match-winning try last December at the Cape Town Stadium – only to lose possession.

So, the likes of Le Roux – who will play off the bench in his return after his wedding, with Devon Williams continuing at fullback – Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Johan Goosen and Embrose Papier in the backline, and Coetzee, Van Staden, Wilco Louw and Johan Grobbelaar upfront have to make the big plays if the Bulls are to end their Stormers hoodoo this evening.

“We need to make sure we can control the things we can control, and those are prepare properly, play properly, take our chances, not have soft moments – which we have probably done against them in the last couple of years,” White said.

“You often hear coaches say it doesn’t get any bigger than this – and the biggest is the World Cup final.

“But to have at a pool game in South Africa a full house at Loftus in round 11 of the competition, it probably doesn’t get bigger than that for a lot of these players.

“I don’t know if most of these players have ever played in front of a full house, 50 000 crowd. Yes sure, the World Cup winners and Springboks, but not too many provincial players have played in front of 50 000 people.

“But I think everything on the day is going to take care of itself anyway – it’s one of those games where you won’t have to say much.”

Bulls Team

15 Devon Williams 14 Canan Moodie 13 Stedman Gans 12 David Kriel 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Johan Goosen 9 Embrose Papier 8 Marcell Coetzee (co-captain) 7 Reinhardt Ludwig 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortjé (co-captain) 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Wilco Louw 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Bench: 16 Simphiwe Matanzima 17 Akker van der Merwe 18 Francois Klopper 19 JF van Heerden 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Zak Burger 22 Willie le Roux 23 Mpilo Gumede.