Rumble, Bulls, rumble

Kurt-Lee Arendse has recovered from a fractured cheekbone in time to start for the Bulls in the URC final against Glasgow. Photo: BackpagePix

Kurt-Lee Arendse has recovered from a fractured cheekbone in time to start for the Bulls in the URC final against Glasgow. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 22, 2024


The Bulls have walked a long road to get to the point of hosting a major competition final at Loftus Versfeld again.

And, after missing out on the United Rugby Championship title in 2022, they are covering almost every base to prevent a repeat of that heartbreaking defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town when they face the Glasgow Warriors in tonight’s final in Pretoria (6pm start).

They got a massive shot in the arm yesterday as Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse was surprisingly passed fit to play, just a few weeks after undergoing surgery for a fractured cheekbone suffered in the quarter-final win over Benetton.

It was hoped that Arendse will push to be ready for the Bok Tests against Ireland, but now he is back on the pitch two weeks earlier.

But the Bulls won’t have Willie le Roux available, though. “With Willie, in the old, old, old days, the doctor would’ve probably said, ‘Can you see my three fingers?’, and he would’ve said yes, and he would’ve been available to play,” Bulls coach Jake White said yesterday.

“But you can imagine now with protocols around concussion and the fear of head injuries, which I understand, there’s no way we can fast-track anything. He failed his HIA, and there’s an obligatory time that you have to be off. He wants to play – he keeps saying that he’s fine.

“But again, it’s a great sign for where we are as a group, because everyone wants to be part of the final.

“And Kurt-Lee – Antoine Dupont had a cheek fracture and played in a quarter-final of the World Cup against South Africa. Doctor was impressed and really happy with how Kurt-Lee has recovered.

“So, there’s no fear of anything, other than the fact that he wants to be part of it. Doctor says he’s happy, specialist says he’s happy, and to have him back – especially because we lose a guy like Willie’s experience – is fantastic for us.”

But apart from the technical aspects that the Bulls know all about in order to stop a Glasgow team riding the wave of having beaten defending champions Munster in Limerick last week, it is all about handling the pressure of a final.

That is where White’s team came unstuck in the 2022 title decider against the Stormers, where they failed to put their opponents away despite being on top for long periods of the first half, and lost 18-13.

They can’t make the same mistake again today, and will take inspiration from last week’s epic 25-20 semi-final victory over Leinster, where they showed tremendous desperation in defence in the second half.

A critical phase of today’s clash will be about stopping the Glasgow driving maul, which has seen hooker Johnny Matthews top the URC try-scorers’ list with 14.

The Bulls need the front row of Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar and Wilco Louw to dominate in the scrums, which will allow the loose trio of Marco van Staden, Elrigh Louw and Cameron Hanekom to play on the front foot.

And having Arendse out wide is a serious attacking weapon that they didn’t have at their disposal last week.

One ploy White used this week was to bring in some Bulls legends to have a chat with the team.

Bakkies Botha is one of the biggest Bulls – literally and figuratively – having won almost every title that was available to him in an illustrious career.

Then yesterday, the older generation of Frik du Preez and Thys Lourens visited at the captain’s run. There would have been others having a word too, either to the players or White, about how to stop Glasgow from spoiling what is sure to be a raucous party at a sold-out Loftus Versfeld.

“The most important message for me is, let’s just do what we did last week – there’s nothing more that they can do,” White said.

“Last week, they showed when they played … And the way they played and things they did were good enough to beat a team like Leinster, who have been in three European Cup finals.

“There is no secret remedy. It’s a final, and you’ve just got to be doing the things that you’ve been doing well – especially what you did last week. For me, that was outstanding.

“We’ve had lots of guys come on … Bakkies Botha has come in and had a chat to them. Bakkies has won the European Cup, three times in Super Rugby, French Top 14, Tri-Nations, British and Irish Lions.

“Thys Lourens was here today, and I think he won seven out of eight Currie Cups as a captain. The message is always the same – just do the things that you do well, and the rest of the game will look after itself.

“That’s basically what I’m going to try to push over the next 24 hours. We’ve just got to do well what we’ve done well the whole year, and that’ll be enough for me. Everyone will understand that we’ve given it a good go.”

Teams For URC Final

Bulls: 15 Devon Williams 14 Sergeal Petersen 13 David Kriel 12 Harold Vorster 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Johan Goosen 9 Embrose Papier 8 Cameron Hanekom 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortjé (captain) 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Wilco Louw 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Bench: 16 Akker van der Merwe 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Francois Klopper 19 Reinhardt Ludwig 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Zak Burger 22 Chris Smith 23 Cornel Smit.

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Josh McKay 14 Sebastian Cancelliere 13 Huw Jones 12 Sione Tuipulotu 11 Kyle Steyn (captain) 10 Tom Jordan 9 George Horne 8 Jack Dempsey 7 Rory Darge 6 Matt Fagerson 5 Richie Gray 4 Scott Cummings 3 Zander Fagerson 2 Johnny Matthews 1 Jamie Bhatti.

Bench: 16 George Turner 17 Nathan McBeth 18 Oli Kebble 19 Max Williamson 20 Euan Ferrie 21 Henco Venter 22 Jamie Dobie 23 Duncan Weir.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy).