Bulls’ Springboks have Jake White buzzing ahead of crunch derbies

Veteran fullback Willie le Roux runs in to score a try during the Bulls’ United Rugby Championships match against Connacht at Loftus Versfeld

Veteran fullback Willie le Roux runs in to score a try during the Bulls’ United Rugby Championships match against Connacht at Loftus Versfeld. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Nov 27, 2023

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The Bulls are starting to rumble – and they have room to get even better as more Springboks and other top players return from injury.

Scoring seven tries and a half-century of points against a competitive team such as Connacht was impressive enough, but it was the manner in which the Pretoria side did it in their 53-27 United Rugby Championship victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday that should send a warning to the other title contenders.

The Bulls are now third on the log with 20 points from six matches, behind Glasgow (25) and Leinster (24).

Next up for Jake White’s team will be the Sharks – who finally hit their straps in a 69-14 win over the Dragons at Kings Park on Saturday – in what is a blockbuster December schedule for the Bulls.

After taking on the Durbanites at Loftus on Saturday (3pm kickoff), the Bulls will then host English giants Saracens in the Champions Cup at the same venue a week later, which will be followed by a trip to France to take on Lyon.

The Bulls will then fly back home to face the Stormers in Cape Town on December 23, in yet another huge clash.

But it seems as if things are falling into place for White and his team, who hit back from going down to Edinburgh in their final tour game to dominate Connacht in a comprehensive display.

The Bulls varied their play smartly by doing the hard yards up front with their forwards – where captain Ruan Nortjé, World Cupwinning Springbok Marco van

Staden and hooker Akker van der Merwe were the standouts – which allowed the backline to roam free.

Flyhalf Jaco van der Walt was chosen as the man of the match for a solid all-round display, while debutant fullback Willie le Roux added his usual finesse on attack and scored a try.

“Beyond grateful for the privilege of stepping onto the field at Loftus for my first game with the Bulls. The support from our home crowd was truly amazing,” Le Roux posted on X yesterday.

White said it was good to have the Boks back in the side.

“The Boks being back is unbelievable. I was saying to the players before the game: every guy in the forward pack, except Reinhardt Ludwig, has played for South Africa – and that’s incredible.

“It’s a great step for the Bulls, and Reinhardt Ludwig has captained the Under-20s. So, he’s the most

inexperienced forwards captain of the SA Under-20 side.

“So, having World Cup winners back and Springboks in your team is something I’ve been pushing since I got here.

“... You don’t score 50 points against Connacht, and I don’t know when last they’ve had 50 points scored against them, so there’s a lot of confidence that you are going to get out of that.

“It’s not just about the points, but the interaction between forwards and backs. One of the best tries we scored was disallowed – everyone might have touched the ball in that sequence.

“That is the thing we have been working on for a long time, and when it comes to fruition against a really well-organised Connacht team, you get very pleased with that.

“I can’t believe he (Le Roux) gets all this flak. It’s the first time he’s played for the Bulls, but it looked like he’s been with us four years ago.

“He has unbelievable time (on the ball), he is very skilful, very clever. It’s almost like having a coach coaching them (his teammates) while it’s going on.”

Another World Cup star, KurtLee Arendse, is set to be available for the Sharks clash after missing the Connacht game for a family bereavement.

Then you would think that Canan Moodie – who played off the bench – might come into the reckoning for the starting line-up, either at wing or outside centre.

That means the Bulls could potentially have a backline of Le Roux, Moodie, Stedman Gans, David Kriel, Arendse, Van der Walt and Embrose Papier against the Sharks, who have their own Bok guns in the shape of Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse at the back.

The major injury concern, though, is skipper Nortjé, who left the field early in the second half with a hamstring problem.

White said he is hoping for a “miracle” that will see the No 5 lock recover for the Sharks clash, but that the likes of No 8 Cameron Hanekom and lock Ruan Vermaak are likely to return from injury this week – although regular captain Marcell Coetzee will miss out due to his suspension.

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