Selection headache for Jake White ahead of Rainbow Cup SA decider
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CAPE TOWN - Not only is Jake White unlikely to have captain Duane Vermeulen available, but he will have a few selection conundrums to solve this week for Saturday's Rainbow Cup South Africa decider against the Sharks in Durban.
White, as well as Rassie Erasmus, have said in recent days that Vermeulen's ankle injury from Friday's 31-27 win over the Stormers looks serious, and they will get a definite answer today once the big No 8 goes for scans in Cape Town.
But while they will hope that he can still face the British & Irish Lions, the 34-year-old probably won't run out for the Bulls anytime soon.
That means someone else will don the No 8 jersey at Kings Park. Marcell Coetzee is the most likely option, although he was the man of the match as an openside flank against the Stormers after being out for three months with a thigh injury.
If Coetzee moves to the back of the scrum, Marco van Staden – who is also in the Bok squad – will return at No 6. But White can also call on two other specialist No 8s in Nizaam Carr, who has captained the team on occasion, and Arno Botha, both of whom missed out on the Stormers encounter.
But Erasmus also announced on Saturday that none of the Bok squad members will feature in the Rainbow Cup final on 19 June in Italy – whether it's the Bulls or Sharks – and for White's team, that means they won't have Vermeulen, Van Staden, Morne Steyn and Trevor Nyakane.
That number could easily increase, as Erasmus said Coetzee and Cornal Hendricks still have a chance of being called up to the Boks.
For the moment, White is sure to select the best available players against the Sharks to secure a final spot. The Bulls lead the log on 20 points, four ahead of the Durban outfit and with a positive points difference of 54. They need to deny Sean Everitt's team a bonus-point victory and lose by 63 points or less to top the SA standings.
So Steyn should continue at No 10, and it will be interesting to see if Nyakane gets the nod at No 3 ahead of Mornay Smith.
White felt that the Bulls need to work on their decision-making on attack after they were unable to capitalise when the Stormers were down to 13 men.
“I think we were a little bit naive when they were 13 men. We let the ball go wide before we ... The backs probably thought, with them having two backs off, they could probably just get the ball through the hands and go around them,” White said.
“It didn't happen – they defended really well with 13 men. They fanned out and closed the space on the outside, so we got caught a few times with Cornal, Marco Jansen van Vuren and Stravino (Jacobs) behind the advantage line.
“As soon as we went through the middle – we saw in that last try when we played with the forwards, it opened up some holes.”