Cape Town - Kurt-Lee Arendse has shown the world what he is capable of with several thrilling performances for the Springboks, but now he is about to enter a new stage: the Champions Cup in Europe.
The speedster is sure to line up at fullback for the Bulls in Saturday’s tournament opener against Lyon at Loftus Versfeld (7.30pm kick-off), having come off yet another scintillating display in last week’s 45-9 thrashing of Cardiff in the United Rugby Championship.
The 26-year-old from Paarl is in the form of his life, having starred for the Boks during their November tour.
He formed a deadly combination with fellow Paarl product Canan Moodie last Saturday, setting up a try for the Bulls No 14 with a chip over the top of the Cardiff defence, and will look to put the heat on Lyon as well.
The French public have already foisted hero status on Cheslin Kolbe, a cult figure at Toulouse and now Toulon.
On Saturday, they will see another magical talent on display in Arendse, and even though the stakes are higher in the Champions Cup, the Bulls don’t want to go into their shells against Lyon.
“Obviously this is a competition you want to play in,” Arendse told the Champions Cup website this week.
“We know it’s a very physical competition, but we pride ourselves on being a physical team. We’re really looking forward to it and can’t wait to start it off.
“We like to be competitive, so we want to play in this competition. I know it’s going to be a massive one. But we have got to focus on ourselves and take it from there.
“I think we’ve changed our game plan a bit. Usually we kick the ball away, but now we’re focusing on attacking a bit more. I think we will have a running game, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Bulls coach Jake White experienced the Champions Cup and the lower-tier Challenge Cup when he was in charge of Montpellier in France.
The 58-year-old knows exactly what his team can expect against Lyon, who boast internationals such as French lock Romain Taofifenua, South African loose forward Arno Botha and Georgian fullback Davit Niniashvili.
The Pretoria outfit will also gain confidence out of being on a four-match winning streak in the URC, while Lyon lost to Bayonne in the French Top 14 at the weekend.
“From the point of view of young players and supporters here, there’s probably a little bit of naivety about just how intense the competition is,” White said.
“If you look at the kind of teams that come running out every weekend, there’s virtually a Test international in every position, plus the bench.
“We are a long way off from that. We don’t have Springboks in every position. It’s not across the board with an international in every position like with the overseas sides. Generally the depth of those teams is much stronger than the South African teams.
“I have tried really hard in the last couple of weeks to explain to them how tough this competition is.
“I have explained to them how seriously these teams take it, how physical it is. You can play against a pack that weighs 1000kg, and that’s just completely different to what we have ever experienced in the past.
“Once it gets going, with the games on TV, I think the whole public will understand the enormity of it. A lot of our supporters have watched Clermont, Racing, Toulouse, La Rochelle and all the top sides play. We obviously see Leinster and those sides in our URC.
“But when you see Clermont-Ferrand on fire at home and you see a rampant Toulouse cut you apart, or you see how good Saracens can be when they have all their internationals, I am thinking after next weekend, there will be a massive mind-shift from the average supporter that will see it is just another level.
“It’s like Champions League football, where you want to measure yourself against the best. It’s just a level down from Test rugby, and not a far level down.”