Cape Town – There is a forecast of 90 percent rain for Toulouse on Sunday, but Bulls coach Jake White feels the wet weather won’t be a leveller in the Champions Cup last-16 showdown with the French giants (4pm SA time kick-off).
White was able to announce the same XV on Friday that started in last week’s 32-23 URC loss to Ulster in Belfast, with only a single change on the bench too.
The experienced Dylan Smith comes in for Simphiwe Matanzima as the loosehead prop cover, with the latter having returned home due to family reasons, which saw him included in the Blue Bulls Currie Cup side for Friday’s game against the Griffons in Welkom.
But while White only had two current Springboks in Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie in his line-up, Toulouse boss Ugo Mola named a team loaded with French internationals who featured in the Six Nations recently – including player of the tournament Antoine Dupont.
So, a wet-weather game usually gives the underdogs a chance against a powerful side, but White believes his players will have to look for other avenues to be competitive.
“That’s what we have. Our squad is still relatively young and relatively inexperienced in terms of the competitions we play in. But that’s the best we have at this stage, and at least everyone is fit and healthy, and we have no concerns about guys carrying injuries,” the former Springbok coach said on Friday.
“It’s a knockout game and you are either in or out. We have a history of playing really well in knockout games over the last couple of years – we’ve won most of them. It’s laden with internationals… French and other international players. They play a style that is well-known in the world of rugby.
“I went past their academy yesterday, and they are very big on offloading, keeping the ball up and not creating rucks. It’s a style that coaches like (Jean-Claude) Skrela and Pierre Villepreux have been coaching for a long time, Ugo Mola and others who have been at this club. They know it makes them different to other teams in the world.
“It was fantastic the whole week, nice and hot and sunny. I heard the rain is coming in now and it’s a bit cold, and the rain will probably stay throughout the weekend – which is not conducive to the kind of rugby we need to play, for both teams.
“But the reality is that it’s the same for both teams, and we will both have to adapt our games.
“I prefer it to be dry in a game where both teams can express themselves. Generally in poor weather, it becomes a leveller, but if you’re playing against a big pack of forwards, it’s not really a leveller.
“They’ve got a massive pack of forwards; they’ve got one of the best players they’ve had in the Six Nations on the bench in (Thibaud) Flament, who is a flank/lock.
“So, not many teams can put that calibre of player on their bench.”
Teams For Sunday
Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse 14 Canan Moodie 13 Cornal Hendricks 12 Harold Vorster 11 David Kriel 10 Chris Smith 9 Zak Burger 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Cyle Brink 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortjé (captain) 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Mornay Smith 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Bismarck du Plessis 17 Dylan Smith 18 Francois Klopper 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 WJ Steenkamp 21 Embrose Papier 22 Morné Steyn 23 Stedman Gans.
Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos 14 Juan Cruz Mallia 13 Santiago Chocobares 12 Pita Ahki 11 Matthis Lebel 10 Romain Ntamack 9 Antoine Dupont 8 Alexandre Roumat 7 Francois Cros 6 Jack Willis 5 Emmanuel Meafou 4 Richie Arnold 3 Dorian Aldegheri 2 Julien Marchand 1 Cyril Baille.
Bench: 16 Peato Mauvaka 17 Rodrigue Neti 18 David Ainu’u 19 Thibaud Flament 20 Alban Placines 21 Trevor Brennan 22 Paul Graou 23 Dimitri Delibes.