Cape Town — The Bulls were down and out after the first six matches of the United Rugby Championship, with just a single win in 2021.
But now they will take on the Stormers in Saturday’s final at Cape Town Stadium, and coach Jake White will be hoping that his team have one more big performance in them after beating Leinster 27-26 in Dublin.
We are profiling the entire Bulls starting XV that have got them to the title decider and are likely to face the Stormers, beginning with the back-three…
Fullback: Kurt-Lee Arendse
The Stormers’ loss is the Bulls’ gain. Arendse attended Paulus Joubert Secondary School in Paarl, and played age-group rugby for Western Province and Boland, but wasn’t given an opportunity in the WP and Stormers teams at senior levels.
He had to make his name firstly via sevens rugby at lower levels and then for the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in the Varsity Cup, where his exhilarating runs caught the eye of Blitzboks coach Neil Powell, who picked him for the Springbok Sevens side in 2019.
But he got his breakthrough in the 15-man code at the Bulls a year later. Jake White knows a talent when he sees one, and he snapped up Arendse, who repaid the faith with some thrilling displays at wing for the Pretoria side.
White felt that the speedster needed to get his hands on the ball more often, though, and shifted him to fullback at the start of this season – which was quite a gamble, considering his size and the fact that the URC teams place a major emphasis on their kicking game.
But the 25-year-old proved himself again with a number of outstanding displays, with his pace across the ground and ability to launch counter-attacks from the back proving to be devastating.
Now he crowned an unforgettable season with selection to the Springbok squad for the Wales Test series next month.
But he would like nothing more than to finish the URC with a bang by helping the Bulls beat the Stormers…
Right wing: Canan Moodie
Can you believe that Moodie is not even 20? And yet, he has already made enormous strides in his rugby career. Another Paarl product like Arendse, the 19-year-old was at Boland Landbou school, but missed out on Western Province Schools selection.
That didn’t deter him, though, and he earned a contract at the Bulls. But what may have surprised him is his quick rise through the ranks.
Moodie first came into the URC side as a right wing, after Kurt-Lee Arendse was moved to fullback to give the Bulls attack a unique cutting edge. The lanky 1.90m tall No 14 impressed out wide, and it looked like he was entrenched in the starting side with his strong running with ball-in-hand and excellent defence.
But then Arendse sustained a broken thumb, and Jake White thrust Moodie into the fullback role. After a reasonable start at No 15, Moodie has blossomed in that spot in the last few games – especially when fielding up-and-unders – although he shifted back to No 14 during last week’s semi-final win over Leinster, after David Kriel came off with a knock to the head.
That saw Arendse make his return from injury, and his stand-out display made it seem as if he was never gone.
With Moodie likely to start at No 14 against the Stormers, he will aim to pressurise the Capetonians with ball-in-hand, while he is sure to be solid under the high ball and help cover the back-field kicks.
Left wing: Madosh Tambwe
The blazingly quick left wing completes a dynamic back-three combination – all of whom weren’t wanted at other unions, and are now excelling.
Tambwe started out at the Lions, having grown up in Johannesburg and attended Parktown Boys’ High, after his family moved from Kinshasha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He first hit the headlines for scoring four tries for the Lions against the Stormers in the 2018 Super Rugby season, but he never quite settled into the starting side and made his way to the Sharks in 2020.
Durban, though, wasn’t kind to him either as he was often left out of the match-23 or played off the bench, with other signings such as Yaw Penxe chosen ahead of him.
Tambwe knew that he could perform at a high level, and packed his bags for Pretoria in early 2021, and hasn’t looked back since.
The 25-year-old has provided a point of difference to the Bulls attack with his lightning-quick pace and lethal footwork.
Tambwe is able to chase kicks downfield and put pressure on the defence, while he is able to motor off his touchline and work his way into gaps and find support with his speed.
He has developed a handy kicking game too – when he connects properly! – and he has worked hard on his high-ball catching skills that has seen him become an expert in such situations.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, Tambwe is being strongly linked to a move to a French club, so if he does leave Pretoria, he would want to do so with a winner’s medal.