DURBAN – At 4.30pm on Saturday, the pause button will be released on South African rugby at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria when the Bulls host the Sharks in a match that will be inevitably brutal.
Of course there is going to be a “trials” element to the game, with rival coaches Jake White (Bulls) and Sean Everitt (Sharks) utilising 30-man squads, but as Everitt said earlier in the week: “Rugby by nature is a competitive beast and you will always play to win.”
It is also White’s first game in charge since taking over from Pote Human in April and you can be sure the former Springbok coach wants to make a statement.
White has spent lockdown reshaping his squad and the group that will duty today is vastly changed from the outfit that struggled in Super Rugby six months ago.
White has always been a big believer in experience and a number of 30-something veterans will play tomorrow, including new captain Duane Vermeulen, but White has also integrated a host of young speed merchants at the back.
Morne Steyn heads a back division that includes several Springboks in Gio Aplon, Embrose Papier, Cornal Hendricks, Travis Ismaiel and Ivan van Zyl but there are also two Blitzboks in Stedman Gans and Kurt-lee Arendse.
Here is your match day 30 to take on the Cell C @TheSharksZA in Vodacom #SuperFanSaturday 🔥 It’s the start of a new era! Let’s get behind the boys 💪 Which player are you most excited to see run out at Loftus? 🙌#BullsFamily pic.twitter.com/WrfTGPcIb8
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) September 24, 2020
And Vermeulen’s forward pack contains fellow Boks in Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden, Arno Botha, Nizaam Carr and Juandré Kruger, but there is also youth and pace in Blitzbok Tim Agaba and Junior Boks in Muller Uys, Ruan Nortjé, Schalk Erasmus and Corniel Els.
Everitt’s Sharks team that will start the game will be markedly different to the side that beat the Stormers on March 14 in the final action before play was halted.
This is mostly because the Sharks have suffered misfortune on the injury front, with a number of players recently crocked in training in what the coach has described as “freakish” accidents.
They are missing first-choice starters in hooker Kerron van Vuuren (pectoral tear), flanks James Venter (concussion) and Henco Venter (quad strain), wings Sbu Nkosi (sternum) and Madosh Tambwe (hamstring) and fullback Aphelele Fassi, plus back-up flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain.
However you look at it, Everitt is using a squad that has a huge focus on youth. He has said that this game is all about preparation for the Super Rugby Unloaded kick-off on October 10, especially because next week he (and all the other coaches) will be unable to train because most of their players will be preparing for the Springbok Showdown in Cape Town next week.
The Cell C Sharks squad to take on the Vodacom Bulls for the Super Saturday clash at Loftus Versveld shows a healthy mix of experience and youth as they prepare for the upcoming season.
— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) September 24, 2020
Just one position illustrates the Sharks’ youth policy – scrumhalf – where Sanele Nohamba and Baby Boks star Jaden Hendrikse are backed up by Grant Williams, with the Sharks having parted ways during lockdown with seniors Louis Schreuder and Cameron Wright.
How will this game pan out? I like what Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch had to say: “The Bulls have a massive pack of experienced forwards, while we want to play a high tempo game, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the two teams clash with their varied approaches.
“The Bulls, with their set-piece game, will try to slow things down and we’ll be trying to speed things up, which will make it a nice contest.”
Bulls: Clinton Swart, Travis Ismaiel, Stedman Gans, Jacques van Rooyen, Kurt-lee Arendse, Corniel Els, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Jade Stighling, Stravino Jacobs, Duane Vermeulen (capt), Arno Botha, Chris Smith, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortjé, David Kriel, Muller Uys, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Erasmus, Jan-Hendriek Wessels, Mornay Smith, Sintu Manjezi, Juandré Kruger, Nizaam Carr, Tim Agaba, Embrose Papier, Cornal Hendricks, Gio Aplon.
Sharks Forwards: Ox Nche, Mzamo Majola, Dylan Richardson, Dan Jooste, Thomas du Toit, John-Hubert Meyer, Ruben van Heerden, JJ van der Mescht, Hyron Andrews, Emile van Heerden, Evan Roos, Adam Mountfort, Celimpilo Gumede, Tera Mtembu, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Phepsi Buthelezi; Backs: Grant Williams, Sanele Nohamba, Jaden Hendrikse, Curwin Bosch, Jordan Chait, Muller du Plessis, Caleb Dingaan, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Lukhanyo Am, JP Pietersen, Werner Kok, Manie Libbok, Thaakir Abrahams.