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It's sink or swim for young Bulls

Wed, 08 Aug 2012 17:56
Large francois venter 630 Large jp nel bulls 630 Large ulrich beyers bulls 630 Large stefan watermeyer bulls 630

Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar admitted that his young midfield pairing has been thrown in at the 'deep end' of the Currie Cup pool.

Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar admitted that his young midfield pairing has been thrown in at the 'deep end' of the Currie Cup pool.

The Bulls get their campaign underway when they host a seasoned Griquas team in Pretoria on Friday - the opening match of the 2012 Currie Cup season.

And it is in the midfield, where youngsters Ulrich Beyers and Francois Venter will start, that the Bulls will probably face their biggest test, against two physically imposing former Bulls - JP Nel and Stefan Watermeyer, who signed with the Kimberley-based outfit last month.

Nel, 31, played over 150 games in the light blue jersey of the Bulls (Currie Cup and Super Rugby), while he also accumulated almost a half-ton while running out for the NTT Shining Arcs in Japan the last few years. His powerful running and brutal tackling are his trademarks.

The 24-year-old Watermeyer, by comparison, has 'only' 50-odd matches for the Bulls, while he also made a handful of appearances for Ospreys in Wales after his departure from Pretoria last year. The product of Hoërskool Waterkloof in Pretoria is also a physically imposing player.

In stark contrast Venter and Beyers, who both turned 21 this year, are only in their second seasons of first class rugby. Venter made 20 appearances for the Bulls last year and Beyers just one.

"You know exactly what you are getting," the Bulls coach, Pienaar, told this website when asked up the midfield showdown.

"They [Nel and Watermeyer] are two hardened centres," Pienaar said, adding: "JP [Nel] has many years worth of experience and it will be a big test for the two young men.

"They [Beyers and Venter] have been thrown in at the deep end and they must swim ... there's no place to hide.

"However, that is what they have been working for.

"We know how hard they [the Griquas midfielders] will come at us and they will have something to prove," he said of the two former Bulls.

It is not just in midfield where the Bulls will be down on experience, with 11 players called up for international duty with the Springboks.

"We always knew that we would lose a number of players to the Boks," Pienaar told this website.

"During the [June] Tests against England there were 16 Bulls players in a group of 32. Then already we started to make provision for losing a [large] chunk of our players," the Bulls mentor said, adding that the Currie Cup is an opportunity to give some younger players a run.

"We will go into Friday's game with a number of players who have not yet played Currie Cup rugby.

"However, it is something they have worked for and it has been a dream for them. They must now put up their hands and show where they are at."

Asked if he felt he has the right balance between youthful exuberance and calm old hands, Pienaar admitted there are a substantial number of younger players in the Currie Cup squad.

"However, on the flipside, we have a player like Louis Fouché, who played a full Currie Cup last year, Francois Venter with Currie Cup and Super Rugby experience behind him, Jurgen Visser with a full Currie Cup season behind him, Akona Ndungane is a veteran and a Springbok.

"Up front we have an old hand in [hooker] Willie Wepener, you have Dawie Steyn, who has been playing Currie Cup rugby for many years [at the Pumas], at tighthead Frik Kirsten has a full Super Rugby season to his credit, Willem Steenkamp is also a seasoned campaigner. It means in the tight five you have just one inexperienced campaigner in Cornell Hess.

"Among the loose forwards: Arno Botha played a full Currie Cup last year, while Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann are both Springboks.

"Yes, you do need a balance between youth and experience.

"However, in certain positions where we do have young players they have a season, last year, of Currie Cup rugby behind them and that will come in handy."

By Jan de Koning

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