Bulls may have lost the battle, but have won the war as Marco van Staden returns

Marco van Staden of South Africa during the World Cup 2023, Pool B rugby union match between South Africa and Romania on September 17, 2023 at Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux , France

Springbok World Cup winner Marco van Staden will replace Marcell Coetzee for the Bulls as they take on Connacht at Loftus Verfeld in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday. Picture: Laurent Lairys/DPPI via AFP

Published Nov 25, 2023


The Bulls may have lost the battle to have Marcell Coetzee cleared, but they won the ‘war’ as Springboks World Cup winner Marco van Staden will replace him for Saturday’s clash against Connacht at Loftus Versfeld.

Co-captain Coetzee received a three-week suspension on Thursday – which will be reduced to two after he attends ‘tackle school’ – for the dangerous tackle on Edinburgh prop Pierre Schoeman in last week’s 31-23 defeat in Scotland.

The United Rugby Championship organisers announced that the independent disciplinary committee felt that the incident had met the red-card threshold, with a mid-range sanction of six weeks being warranted – which was reduced to three due to Coetzee’s “previously exemplary disciplinary record”.

But many observers felt it was a harsh call on the pitch already, as both players had gone low into the contact.

‘See how it all pans out’

“I went to the hearing to see how it all pans out – I didn’t get involved, but wanted to see what happens. It would’ve been helluva difficult to find him innocent if the referee made that call with the TMO – because all that would say is that they don’t back the referee,” White said from Pretoria on Friday.

“And to be fair, they’ve got to back the referee first, surely. Having sat in that thing and watched, I realised that it is highly unlikely that they would ever go against what the referee felt – the referee was on the field, the TMO was there.

“It isn’t ideal, but it is the nature of what we have to cope with.”

But in some ways, Coetzee’s enforced absence comes at just the right time, as it allows Van Staden to impose his skills at the breakdown in particular against Connacht on Saturday (5pm kickoff).

The openside flank is a true scavenger on the ground, and is also a strong ball-carrier, which could assist his fellow loose forwards, Elrigh Louw and Nizaam Carr, to operate in the wider channels.

That is where returning Bok fullback Willie le Roux – who will make his Bulls debut – will look to ignite the backline, especially in the absence of the injured flyhalf Johan Goosen, which sees Jaco van der Walt slotting into the No 10 jersey.

The other World Cup Bok who will be involved on Saturday is utility back Canan Moodie on the bench, while wing Kurt-Lee Arendse is not available due to a family bereavement.

Change for the good

“Part of the reasoning for this week are injuries and the suspension of Marcell. Ruan Vermaak, Cameron Hanekom, Goosen and Grobbies (Johan Grobbelaar) are injured. I had to make changes this week anyway, but I said earlier already that I want to use more players this season and change my team every week,” White said.

“I would have done it anyway, and the fact that I get Marco back from the World Cup this week in Marcell’s place is a big bonus.

“The energy that the Boks will give will be unbelievable. I can see that they just want to play, and if you have Willie, Marco and Canan on the field and they just want to play, then it means a lot to us.

“I’m not too afraid of the fact that we’ve got good athletes playing. Nizaam is a good athlete, Reinhardt Ludwig is a good athlete who can play loose forward and lock…

“It is a nice, balanced team, and playing at 5pm at altitude – it is going to be 36 degrees tomorrow, so hopefully that selection and combination will be good enough to get a result tomorrow.”