Cape Town – Charlie Ewels has been like a “kid in a candy store” at Blue Bulls training this week, and Jake White says he can’t wait to see the England lock make his Currie Cup debut against the Lions on Saturday (6.30pm kickoff).
The 27-year-old Bath stalwart only recently recovered from a serious knee injury and his English club was unable to sign him on for the rest of the season, which resulted in him looking for an alternative.
The Bulls were able to secure his services, and having played 30 Tests for England and over 100 matches for Bath, his impact has already been felt in Pretoria before he runs out for the first time at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
“I can’t wait – he is like a young kid in a toy shop or candy store. The guy really wants to play, hasn’t played rugby for a long time and he knows this is an opportunity to show (England coach) Steve Borthwick that he’s ready to play in the World Cup,” White said on Friday after including Ewels at No 5 for the Lions clash.
“He knows this is an opportunity he has to use, and often you get a guy who comes into a squad and he is just happy to go through the motions – he’s completely different.
“He really wants to make an impression, and add value. He’s happy to share whatever he’s learnt at England and Bath, and whatever he’s learnt as a player.
“It’s been fantastic to have that kind of personality. I can’t remember any international player playing for the Bulls, so this is the first time I’ve experienced having a fully fledged international playing at the Bulls.
“And I can tell you that he’s definitely added much more than just him as a player.”
Ewels replaces Janko Swanepoel, who will be on the bench for the URC side that will take on Leinster earlier on Saturday, while WJ Steenkamp – who will also be on the URC side’s bench, along with Cornal Hendricks – comes in at No 8 for Nizaam Carr, who has been ruled out due to concussion protocols.
The other new face in the starting XV is Juan Mostert, who gets an opportunity in place of Franco Knoetze.
Due to Carr’s absence, young flank Reinhardt Ludwig will take over the captaincy.
Blue Bulls Team
15 Juan Mostert 14 Sibongile Novuka 13 Lionel Mapoe 12 Chris Barend Smit 11 Wandisile Simelane 10 Morné Steyn (captain) 9 Zak Burger 8 WJ Steenkamp 7 Reinhardt Ludwig 6 Cameron Hanekom 5 Charlie Ewels 4 Jacques du Plessis 3 Sebastian Lombard 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Bench: 16 Tiaan Lange 17 Jacques van Rooyen 18 Robert Hunt 19 Merwe Olivier 20 Mihlali Mosi 21 Bernard van der Linde 22 Cornal Hendricks 23 Kabelo Mokoena.