Cape Town - Cape Town – Change is coming at the Blue Bulls over the next few months, but that doesn’t mean players are now playing for their careers in the rest of the Currie Cup.
Director of rugby Jake White reminded everybody yesterday just how seriously he is taking the competition by picking his strongest possible team for Saturday’s clash against Griquas in Kimberley (3pm kickoff).
Only Springbok training squad members Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden were not eligible for selection ahead of the national camp next week in Durban, while utility back Johan Goosen has a hamstring injury.
But while the Bulls would love to win a third Currie Cup title on White’s watch, the former Springbok coach has a bit of a renewed focus for the rest of the tournament in order to prepare properly for the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup next season.
“It wasn’t all bad – no one got through the playoffs of the Champions Cup. If our season has been poor and we ended sixth in the URC, qualified for the Champions Cup, then we’re in a position of massive strength and we are going to become a powerhouse team,” White said yesterday.
“I don’t think we’ve done as well as we could’ve, but I don’t think it’s a failure. Everyone knows we at the Bulls take the Currie Cup very seriously. We were the only team last year that played our strongest side in the whole Currie Cup.
“That’s not going to change – the fact that we had a poor start doesn’t mean we are going to write the season off. If we get into the playoffs, then we have as much of a chance as all the other teams to win the competition.”
Part of the ‘new’ plan sees a new-look back-three in David Kriel, Sibongile Novuka and Marco Jansen van Vuren, while it’s an all-Springbok loose trio of Elrigh Louw, Nizaam Carr and Marcell Coetzee.
“I’m talking about speed, skill and ability to change a game – whatever position you’re in. Obviously we know how important Canan and Kurt-Lee are, and I would like to add that kind of player to our squad as well,” White said.
“This is a little bit of a stage where I want to try different things. The combination of Nizaam Carr this weekend with Elrigh and Marcell is something I would like to see as a starting combination, and I don’t think it’s fair to say that some guys are playing for their careers…
“There needs to be change, and not for any other reason than I just think we need new energy. And change will happen inevitably.
“Some guys and coaches are finishing their contracts, so we are probably in a very fortunate position that after three years, from playing behind closed doors with no fans to playing in front over 40 000 in the URC and Champions Cup, there have been different responses from different players.
“Some guys have done well and some guys have fallen a little bit behind.”
The Bulls are seventh on 17 points, and need the victory to stay in the semi-final race, with Griquas fourth on 23.
“They’re very good in Kimberley. They’ve been together for a while and play good rugby. Anybody’s who has played or coached rugby know it’s tough to go to Kimberley. They’re well coached, they don’t go away and they play for 80 minutes,” White said.
“It’s a different ground, and the wind blows there – it’s a bit like playing in Cape Town at Ikeys (UCT). It’s a completely different fixture if you play anywhere else.”
Teams For Kimberley
Griquas: 15 Ashlon Davids 14 Rosko Specman 13 Jay-Cee Nel 12 Tertius Kruger 11 Sako Makata 10 Lubabalo Dobela 9 Johan Mulder 8 Carl Els 7 Hanru Sirgel (captain) 6 Thabo Ndimande 5 Dylan Sjoblom 4 Derik Pretorius 3 Janu Botha 2 Janco Uys 1 Kudzwai Dube.
Bench: 16 Gustav du Rand 17 Eddie Davids 18 Cebo Dlamini 19 Johan Retief 20 Stephan Smit 21 Raegan Oranjé 22 George Whitehead 23 Sango Xamlashe.
Blue Bulls: 15 David Kriel 14 Sibongile Novuka 13 Stedman Gans 12 Harold Vorster 11 Marco Jansen van Vuren 10 Chris Smith 9 Embrose Papier 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Nizaam Carr 6 Marcell Coetzee 5 Ruan Nortjé (captain) 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Mornay Smith 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Francois Klopper 19 Charlie Ewels 20 WJ Steenkamp 21 Keagan Johannes 22 Chris Barend Smit 23 Cornal Hendricks.