5 players who can spark the Bulls into life ... Stedman Gans should enjoy quick 4G pitch
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Cape Town - The Bulls have played impressive rugby at times, but lost both their United Rugby Championship matches in Ireland.
Now they hope it will be third time lucky as they face Cardiff Blues on a 4G synthetic pitch at Cardiff Arms Park tomorrow (8.35pm).
Here are five players who can spark the Bulls into life …
The regular fullback was left out for last week’s Connacht game as coach Jake White felt that Ruan Combrinck’s big boot and ability to kick with both feet would be more valuable in the wind and rain.
But the Bulls missed Kriel’s counter-attacking runs from the back, while he is also solid under the high ball.
Kriel should also enjoy the quicker, steady 4G surface, which feels like a carpet, with scrumhalf Zak Burger saying this week that he feels “lighter” when running on it.
The 22-year-old fullback can act as a second playmaker as well, and would take some of the pressure off Johan Goosen at flyhalf.
The Blitzbok star has had to play off the bench mainly since returning from the Tokyo Olympics, but the time has come to give him a run again at outside centre.
Lionel Mapoe and Harold Vorster have been a midfield force in recent months, but Gans and Cornal Hendricks were first-choice for most of last season, and will bring something different with their speed and footwork up the middle.
Whereas Mapoe and Vorster are more direct runners, Gans and Hendricks have good evasive skills and should enjoy the quick pitch.
His clash with Leinster’s master flyhalf Johnny Sexton was a resounding triumph for the Irish veteran, who pulled the strings superbly in a 31-3 win.
The Bulls would have hoped that Goosen could play such a role for them, but it was not to be.
Things weren’t much better last week against Connacht. Goosen’s passing game seems fine, but he needs to take charge in every respect, as he did in the Currie Cup.
A line-break here, a magical offload there, a booming touchfinder or penalty to the posts … The ball is in Goosen’s court if he wants to push for Springbok selection again for the November tour to Europe.
The big No 8 has been a strong ballcarrier in the matches in Ireland, but it has mainly been up the middle.
Louw’s size and handling skills really come into effect in the wider channels, and the Bulls need to find a way to get him into space instead of just doing the hard grind at close quarters.
Louw has that knack of being able to breach defences with wonderful running lines, and he has the tricks in his armoury to offload in the tackle. His height also makes him a candidate to contest Cardiff’s line-outs.
The Bulls captain’s experience as an Ulster player for five years would have given the team insights into Leinster and Connacht, but Coetzee wasn’t his usual influential self.
The South Africans seemed overwhelmed at times by the high tempo with which the Irish sides played, and Coetzee needs to lead from the front in that regard against Cardiff.
His usual energetic style of play is what the Bulls need, firstly in contesting the breakdowns, but also as a busy ball-carrier.