No Wilco Louw, but Bulls aim to front up to Bordeaux in Champions Cup

Akker van der Merwe of the Vodacom Bulls during the 2023 United Rugby Championships match between Bulls and Connacht at Loftus Stadium

Bulls boss Jake White has confirmed that Springbok tighthead prop Louw won’t feature this weekend due to an AC joint injury in his shoulder. Seen here: Akker van der Merwe. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jan 19, 2024


The Bulls won’t have Wilco Louw available, but they are ready to go toe-to-toe with Bordeaux in Saturday’s Champions Cup showdown at Loftus Versfeld (3pm kickoff).

Bulls boss Jake White has confirmed that Springbok tighthead prop Louw won’t feature this weekend due to an AC joint injury in his shoulder.

At least it’s not a long-term injury, with Louw set to return to action by the end of February – which means he will miss just three fixtures: Bordeaux, Lions next weekend and the Johannesburg outfit again on February 17, with a possible comeback against the Stormers at Loftus on March 2.

White has ample back-up for the No 3 jersey, with Khutha Mchunu capping a fine performance in last weekend’s 31-17 bonus-point win over Bristol in England with a try, while Mornay Smith and Jacques van Rooyen provide further depth.

Akker boost

But the front row is likely to be bolstered by hooker Akker van der Merwe against Bordeaux after he was given a breather last weekend, while other regulars such as Cameron Hanekom, Stedman Gans and Nizaam Carr could come into the mix as well.

Star lock Ruan Nortjé played off the bench against Bristol – after recovering from a hamstring injury – and could also get a start this time around.

White will need all hands on deck if Bordeaux – who thrashed Saracens 55-15 last weekend – send their best team to Pretoria.

They are loaded with top internationals such as France’s Damian Penaud and Matthieu Jalibert, as well as giant Tonga tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna.

In contrast, the Bulls are still resting three World Cup-winning Boks in Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden, although fullback Willie le Roux is available this week.

“I have no doubt that the way it’s set up, they are going to have to bring their main guys,” White told the media at Loftus this week.

“And I say that if Lyon win and we get a bonus point and win by a lot of points, it could change the whole dynamic of who finishes where on the log. I take it as a given that they will bring their best players.

“It’s a great test for us. I hope they bring their best players. That will give us a good measurement of where we are as a group. We don’t have Marco, Canan, Kurt-Lee and Wilco for the weekend as well. You take those guys out of the team, and it’s a massive test for the next group.

“They like to keep the ball alive and run from everywhere, so it’ll be interesting to see whether or not they play with the same strategy, considering they’ll play at altitude.

“It’s altitude, 3pm, different conditions to what they are used to. If they want to play quickly, it might play into our hands, because as you know with altitude, if you land on Wednesday and play on Saturday, it has a different effect.

“Altitude does play a massive role, and it is something you’ve got to factor into your game.”