WATCH: Jake White banking on bustling Bulls bringing it to Benetton

a rugby player runs with the ball while an opposition player attemps to bring him down by pulling on his jersey

Bulls' Kurt-Lee Arendse is tackled by Munster’s Jack Crowley in their United Rugby Championship match, at Thomond Park, in Limerick on 15 October 2022. Picture: Dan Sheridan/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Oct 21, 2022

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Cape Town - The last time the Bulls visited Stadio Monigo, it was under very different circumstances to Friday night’s United Rugby Championship clash against Benetton (6.30pm SA time kickoff).

The Pretoria side had just won the Currie Cup final in June last year, and had lost a few top players to the Springbok squad.

Then they had to travel from the South African capital to Treviso, and probably thought that they would easily dispatch an Italian club side.

But they got a proper hiding to the tune of 35-8 in the Rainbow Cup final on a hot European summer’s day.

And it was one of their South Africans – former Stormers scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage – who led the way with a commanding performance as the Bulls wilted in the sunny conditions.

Now, though, Jake White’s team went all the way to the URC final last season, and made a three-match winning start to this campaign.

They went down to Glasgow and Munster over the last fortnight, but are keen to avoid another ‘ambush’ in Treviso on Friday.

“I hope so: I hope that what we got last time won’t surprise us again. It’s very different – it’s warm weather here, and the sun’s shining. In Munster and Glasgow, we had rain nearly every day, and it was freezing cold, so the conditions are different. The best (Benetton) team’s been picked – they’ve got all their internationals out there this weekend,” White said from Italy on Thursday.

“They’ve got unbelievable passion in their crowd. They too have talked a lot about how they beat us in that final, so now we get another opportunity to learn from that. We can’t change what happened in the last game.

“So, I don’t know… I can only answer that afterwards. I hope we are wise enough as a group to understand that we don’t get caught the same way.

“But all credit to them. They are not as poor as what people think they are. Those days of coming here and playing Italian sides, and thinking it’s a five-pointer, and then you pack your bags and go home – it’s not like that. They are a good team, well-coached.

“Nineteen of that side are going to play for Italy against South Africa, Australia, Samoa… that’s the kind of experience they are going to pick up in the next month.

“That’s the one thing: we don’t have that. You guys asked me the whole press conference about (Johan) Goosen, who is the one guy – who has been out for 11 months – who can play Test rugby the following week for the Springboks. When you talk to the Sharks and Stormers, you are talking about 15 guys.

“Last week, Ireland picked 14 of the Munster players for the autumn internationals, and it’s similar for Glasgow.”

Goosen (concussion) and wing Cornal Hendricks (groin) have already returned to South Africa, which sees Chris Smith and David Kriel slot in at flyhalf and right wing respectively.

Smith will look to make amends for what was a nightmare outing in that last game in Treviso, while White added some bite to the pack as well.

Veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis will lead the physical onslaught in a new-look front row, while Marco van Staden will try to slow down Benetton’s possession alongside captain Marcell Coetzee.

The Bulls are a proud team, and won’t want to leave Europe with three consecutive defeats on tour. Friday is the time for them to show how much they want it…

Teams

Benetton: 15 Giacomo da Re 14 Ignacio Mendy 13 Ignacio Brex 12 Marco Zanon 11 Mattia Bellini 10 Tomas Albornoz 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain) 8 Lorenzo Cannone 7 Michele Lamaro 6 Manuel Zuliani 5 Federico Ruzza 4 Scott Scrafton 3 Simone Ferrari 2 Giacomo Nicotera 1 Ivan Nemer.

Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi 17 Thomas Gallo 18 Tiziano Pasquali 19 Niccolo Cannone 20 Toa Halafihi 21 Manfredi Albanese 22 Tommaso Menoncello 23 Marcus Watson.

Bulls: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse 14 David Kriel 13 Stedman Gans 12 Harold Vorster 11 Wandisile Simelane 10 Chris Smith 9 Embrose Papier 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Marco van Staden 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain) 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Janko Swanepoel 3 Francois Klopper 2 Bismarck du Plessis 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Replacements: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Mornay Smith 19 Walt Steenkamp 20 WJ Steenkamp 21 Zak Burger 22 Morné Steyn 23 Stravino Jacobs.

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