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Bulls can follow Stormers’ blueprint for clash against Springbok-laden Sharks

FILE - Bulls head coach Jake White. Photo: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock

FILE - Bulls head coach Jake White. Photo: Morgan Treacy/INPHO/Shutterstock

Published Feb 10, 2022


Cape Town — If ever the Bulls need to sort out their scrum before a game, now is the time to do it, as the Sharks are waiting to pounce at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls have battled without the injured tighthead prop Mornay Smith during the last few rounds of the United Rugby Championship, which has seen veteran Jacques van Rooyen step in at No 3.

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Van Rooyen was a loosehead for most of his career, but has helped out on the right-hand side of the scrum and become a solid tighthead for the Pretoria side.

But he is not a specialist, and the other No 3 in the squad is Robert Hunt, who is only in his second year of senior professional rugby after coming through the Varsity Cup for UCT.

Bulls director of rugby Jake White and Currie Cup head coach Gert Smal have explained that they have opted to up-skill the current front-rowers in their squad instead of recruiting a big-name tighthead from elsewhere, as there weren’t too many of those available either.

Springbok star Trevor Nyakane’s departure for Racing 92 in France has left a gaping hole in the Bulls squad, and Smith’s injury has come at just the wrong time.

Former Bulls stalwart tighthead Werner Kruger has been brought on board as a scrum consultant, while ex-hooker Edgar Marutlulle is a scrum coach for the Currie Cup side, and they will look to work with the likes of Van Rooyen, Hunt and promising youngster Sebastian Lombard while Smith makes his way back on to the pitch.

But an all-Springbok front row of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Thomas du Toit are getting ready to have a full go at the Bulls scrum at Loftus on Saturday (5.05pm kickoff), so the Bulls need to come up with a plan.

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The Sharks dominated the Stormers scrum in Durban recently, and were also on top in their 20-10 loss in Cape Town last weekend, although not to the same extent.

In contrast, the Bulls were heavily penalised in the set-piece by referee Aimee Barrett-Theron in their 21-13 victory over the Lions at Loftus last Saturday

White expressed his unhappiness with some of the calls from Barrett-Theron, and he had a point, as the Lions also got away with a few infringements.

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But the modern-day talk when it comes to scrums is to “present a good picture” to the referee, and that generally means a loosehead must not “walk around” the tighthead, no elbows or hands on the ground, and that the tighthead must not scrum in on the opposition hooker.

AJ Jacobs has been appointed as the referee for Saturday’s match, and White will hope for a different outcome from the whistle.

But while the Bulls had their hands full with Lions props Sti Sithole and Carlu Sadie, the heat is going to be even more intense from the Sharks’ Bok trio of Nche, Mbonambi and Du Toit.

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Simphiwe Matanzima, Johan Grobbelaar and Van Rooyen started against the Lions last week, so perhaps White will refresh his front row, with the options including Lizo Gqoboka and Gerhard Steenekamp at loosehead, Bismarck du Plessis at hooker and Hunt at tighthead.

White will only name his match-23 on Friday, but whoever he picks, they would do well to take a leaf out of the Stormers forwards’ book from last week’s game against the Sharks.

The Capetonians didn’t always get their way in the scrums, but stayed in the fight in that set-piece, and disrupted the Sharks’ lineouts.

In addition, they were marauding in defence, with openside flank Deon Fourie the Man of the Match as they competed hard at the breakdowns and swarmed all over top Sharks ball-carriers such as Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am in general play.


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