JOHANNESBURG – With hardly a Springbok in sight and just a handful of first-choice players in action, you’d have every right to ask: What is the point?
Coaches Pote Human and Swys de Bruin won’t give a jot about the final result either when the Bulls and Lions clash in a Super Rugby pre-season warm-up at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria today (B field, 3pm kickoff).
In fact, whether their teams play sparkling, attractive running rugby and tackle like men possessed also won’t mean much, because the majority of men running out this afternoon are not likely to be part of either the Bulls or Lions first-choice teams when the competition proper gets under way in four weeks’ time.
So, what’s the point?
Of the 50 players in action today, expect only a handful of men to be part of their respective franchises' strongest teams this year.
What the coaches are looking for this afternoon are the back-up men they believe can stand up should injuries knock out the first-choice players through the course of the marathon competition.
And injuries will occur, and some big-name players will be laid low.
For the Bulls, former Bok wing Cornal Hendricks will be keen to show he is still the real deal after recovering from health issues, while Blitzboks speedster Rosko Specman will also be out to impress, especially now that regular Bulls wing Travis Ismaiel has been ruled out for some time with injury.
Flyhalf Manie Libbok, so impressive in the Currie Cup, has a bright future ahead of him and could be one of the Bulls’ surprise packages this year, while upfront, Thembelani Bholi, Ruan Steenkamp, Eli Snyman and Ruan Nortjé will want to impress Human in the team’s first hit-out of the season.
In case you've missed it, here is the team line up for the Vodacom Bulls vs Emirates Lions Warm-Up game Today at Loftus. Kick off 15h00#WU-VBBvLIO #BullsFamily #SuerPowered #RealLiveSuperHeroes pic.twitter.com/ykIrSwGMPd— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) January 26, 2019
Bench-sitters like Tim Agaba, Nic de Jager, Ivan van Zyl and Divan Rossouw will give the Bulls the edge over the young Lions team.
De Bruin has opted to look at several young Lions stars today, like backs Wandisile Simelane, Tyrone Green, Gianni Lombard, and forwards Vincent Tshituka, Thyno Herbst, Ruan Vermaak and props Asenathi Ntlabakanye and Nathan McBeth.
Sylvian Mahuza will captain a young Emirates Lions side in the first pre-season friendly of 2019 when they face the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld B on Saturday. #LionsPride Photo: @Madoshtambwe14_ pic.twitter.com/xEhVh8qBmW— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) January 24, 2019
There’s not much the respective coaches will learn today about their teams’ readiness for Super Rugby – not four weeks out from the start of the competition.
But they will hopefully get an idea of their strength in depth, and which players they can lean on when the competition starts taking its toll on the senior men.@jacq_west