Brumbies flank David Pocock might be a thorn in the side of the Bulls when the two teams meat. Photo: EPA
Wallaby and Brumbies loose forward David Pocock is a nuisance.

He has always been one, from the tender age of 17 when he was plucked out of high school by then Western Force coach John Mitchell to play Super Rugby.

Thirteen years later Mitchell, now Bulls coach, has no doubt that Pocock will continue to be a menace for his team in their upcoming clash at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow.

And Mitchell is justified in being wary of Pocock’s ability especially on the ground with the Zimbabwean-born flank the competition’s leading turnover thief with 2.4 steals per game while the next best fetcher is at 1.6 turnovers per game.

“Great to see him back playing the game after two serious knee injuries. It takes me back,” said Mitchell.

“I took him on as a 17-year-old from Churchie College (Anglican Church Grammar School) in Brisbane and I remember watching one training and this 17-year-old was tearing in and just ripping into everyone and had no respect for all these older guys. I think he had his first warm-up game against the Cheetahs and I had to get consent from his parents. He got a black eye and I think he might have got HIA (head injury assessment) in those days which we kept under the carpet. He’s a phenomenal athlete, a very respectful man and the standards that he sets as an athlete and person are quite phenomenal. It is good to have those people in the game and the Brumbies are very lucky to have somebody of his ability. Other coaches and other teams focus on him alone but they’ve got other good players as well. But he does have a presence around first, second and third phase, it really depends where he turns up defensively. And he has also become a better ball player and he plays a lot out of their plus one line-outs. He’s learnt to distribute well on the gain line so he has added a lot to his game as well.”

And while the figure of Pocock and his teammates from the Australian capital come to South Africa’s capital with victory on their minds, they will need to be mindful of the danger a wounded Bulls team will pose after their 54-24 drubbing by the Jaguares in Buenos Aires last weekend.

“Unfortunately it is the evolution of the group. We acknowledge that we were poor in attitude and soft in the head and it is important that we learn from it. Are we richer or poorer from the situation? The important thing is that when you come out of that situation you need to gain from it,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell has brought back some re-enforcements with the return of captain Burger Odendaal at inside centre and Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard moving back to his more familiar position at pivot.

And to counter Pocock’s threat on the ground, Mitchell has brought in Nic de Jager in place of the abrasive Thembelani Bholi to assist Roelof Smit and Marco van Staden in the loose against the dangerous Pocock.

Another change to the Bulls team comes at hooker where Jaco Visagie is handed a rare start, with former Bok captain Adriaan Strauss demoted to the bench.

Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal (capt), Johnny Kotze, Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Marco van Staden, Nic de Jager, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Conraad van Vuuren, Jaco Visagie, Trevor Nyakane; Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Mox Mxoli, Mattys Basson, Ruben van Heerden, Thembelani Bholi, Andre Warner, Manie Libbok, Divan Rossouw.


The Star

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