Cape Town - Is Wandisile Simelane an outside centre, fullback or wing? The man himself obviously dished out the “I will play wherever the team need me” line ahead of the Bulls’ United Rugby Championship (URC) clash against the Stormers on Friday, but the jury is still out on where he is best utilised.
Coach Jake White has said several times this season that he wants to broaden Simelane’s versatility in order to aid his bid for higher honours.
The 24-year-old was part of the wider Springbok training group last year, but hasn’t been called up to the national squad since. Having made the move from the Lions to Loftus Versfeld, Simelane may have expected to be the Bulls’ first-choice No 13, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Lionel Mapoe, Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans have featured there across the URC and Champions Cup, while Simelane has operated mainly at fullback and wing.
White feels that having been a star football player as a youngster, Simelane has the requisite skills to become a force out wide and push for a Bok cap.
But having been known to hit that outside gap as a No 13 for the Lions, he is still finding his feet in the different positions in Pretoria.
“I enjoy playing fullback, but my favourite position will still be outside centre, as I’ve said many times. But I will play wherever the team need me. Rugby is a team sport, and I am willing to help the team out wherever they need me – whether it’s fullback, wing, outside centre,” Simelane said yesterday.
“I do believe it (playing in different positions) could help me achieve higher honours, but I’ve always played fullback and wing at training or at school – I just haven’t done it before at URC or Champions Cup level before.
“I always knew I could play 15 or wing, and Jake also probably knew that. So, now the entire world is seeing me play 15 on more than one occasion.
“So, I can just get better. I feel I have them (skills). To play 15 and wing, the more you play, the better you get. Nothing beats game-time and being in those situations every week. I just want to get back to my best week-in, week-out.”
Simelane could be one of the excitement machines on display for the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium on Friday (7.15pm kick-off), along with Springboks Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie.
The visitors are well equipped to take on an equally dangerous Stormers outfit with ball-in-hand, but with the stakes so high and an evening game possibly being affected by dew on the surface, it could become a tight affair.
“We’ve got great attacking players in the backline, so to not use them would be silly. Any South African derby is physical. Whether it’s a running or kicking game, it will always be difficult. We kind of know how the Stormers have been playing, which is a very exciting brand,”
“But we’ve got our plan on how we are going to counter that, and how we are going to play and approach the game.
“The opportunities will come, but it will only be one or two instead of five or six, and that will count and be the difference between winning and losing the game. It’s about how well you execute in those one or two moments.
“Throwing the ball away versus keeping it for one or two more phases could be very beneficial in terms of the outcome of momentum in the game.
“So, you want to build pressure and hopefully they are rattled towards the end instead of throwing a 50-50 pass.
“I haven’t checked the weather yet, but I assume it will be tighter than people expect – high pressure, No 2 against No 3 …
“Hopefully we are calm enough to control the game, and our gamedrivers will put us in the right positions to strike.
“We always love to have ball-inhand in attack, and if the weather allows, we will do so – because that is our natural instinct.”