Cape Town – Winning a final is all about making the big plays, and Bulls coach Jake White was at it even before kickoff on Friday by bringing in Kurt-Lee Arendse for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship title decider against the Stormers.
The former Blitzboks star was expected to regain the No 15 jersey for the Cape Town Stadium encounter (7.30pm kickoff), having recovered from a broken thumb in time for last week’s 27-26 semi-final win over Leinster.
But Arendse played off the bench in that game as White felt it takes time for players to get going after a lengthy time in the sidelines, and he came onto the pitch in the first half as a replacement for right wing David Kriel, who went off for a head injury assessment (HIA) after taking a blow to the head in a tackle on Robbie Henshaw.
Kriel didn’t return to the field, and Arendse looked like he had never been away as he made a couple of incisive runs and covered the back-field effectively, with Canan Moodie shifting to wing.
But White did say before the Leinster match that having Kriel and Moodie at the back helps the Bulls deal with a big kicking game from the opposition, which is why Arendse was a reserve in Dublin.
The Stormers, though, have a different approach and look to hold on to possession, and White will want his defence to contest the breakdowns heavily and win turnovers for Arendse to strike on the counter-attack, as he is a game-breaker of note who can produce a match-winning moment at any time.
His return sees Moodie moving back to right wing, while Kriel has recovered sufficiently to make the bench.
15 Kurt-Lee Arendse 14 Canan Moodie 13 Cornal Hendricks 12 Harold Vorster 11 Madosh Tambwe 10 Chris Smith 9 Zak Burger 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Arno Botha 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain) 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Walt Steenkamp 3 Mornay Smith 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Bismarck du Plessis 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Robert Hunt 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 WJ Steenkamp 21 Embrose Papier 22 Morné Steyn 23 David Kriel.