Hattingh's rapid rise

Thu, 21 Mar 2013 07:12
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Less than a year ago he was still playing in the Varsity Cup competition, but Saturday Grant Hattingh will line up against a Wallaby captain.

Less than a year ago he was still playing in the Varsity Cup competition, but Saturday Grant Hattingh will line up against a Wallaby captain.

When the 22-year-old, in an interview with this website, last year said he decided to move to Pretoria for more game time and a chance to play Super Rugby, many sceptics scoffed at his bold views.

That was because the University of Stellenbosch product only arrived in Johannesburg from Maties four months earlier.

However, he has been given a vote of confidence by Bulls coach Frans Ludeke and on Saturday he will line-up opposite Wallaby skipper James Horwill in a crucial game for the Bulls.

Ludeke made nine changes to his team, a combination of injuries and rotation.

However, the most significant selections were probably in the second row - where Hattingh and 20-year-old Baby Bok Paul Willemse (another recruit from the Lions) will start for the first time in their Bulls careers.

Seasoned Springbok Juandré Kruger will play off the bench and fellow Bok Flip van der Merwe is injured.

"Grant Hattingh has been used as an impact player the last few weeks and we would like to give him a start this week," Ludeke said in a teleconference from the team's base in Brisbane.

"He is a good player that brings different qualities to the side," Ludeke said of the young second row, who replaced the French-bound Kruger.

Willemse is in for Van der Merwe, who took a blow to the chest in the loss to the Crusaders last week.

Asked about Hattingh's qualities, Ludeke was lavish with his praise of the young utility forward - who can also play in any position in the back row.

"Juandré is a very good line-out operator," the Bulls coach said of the benched Bok.

"We believe Grant has that as well," Ludeke said, adding: "His allround game is great.

"The last few games, when he came on as a replacement, he made an impact as a carrier, as a defender and with his [high] workrate.

"He is a player that gets involved in a lot of the game."

Ludeke admitted that he would not have made as many (nine) changes if injuries did not force his hand.

"It is great to have [Springbok flank] Dewald [Potgieter] back [from injury]," the Bulls mentor said.

"Pierre [Spies], Deon [Stegmann] and Dewald [Potgieter] is an established loose forward combination that worked well for us in the past.

"We have five quality loose forwards and we are using the squad system. We have confidence in the players in the matchday 22 to do the job for us."

He said other changes were down to "rotation".

"Werner [Kruger] and Chiliboy [Ralepelle] are back in [the starting XV]," Ludeke said.

Asked about the new midfield pairing of JJ Engelbrecht and Francois Venter, the coach said they have confidence in the two youngsters against an established and powerful Reds midfield.

"The No.9 [Jano Vermaak], No.10 [Louis Fouché] and No.12 [Venter] played almost the entire Currie Cup last year," Ludeke said.

"They should work well this weekend as a unit.

"JJ [Engelbrecht] has been playing a lot at outside centre for us. We moved him to wing [last week] when we had the injury [to Lionel Mapoe] and on defence there was one or two issues. We looked at it and we rectified that."

He was also asked about leaving record-breaking flyhalf Morné Steyn on the bench.

"It is the first time in four years that Morné is on the bench. Louis deserves a start.

"Morné can't play all the games - it happened last year [that he played all the games, including numerous internationals], so this is just a way to also manage Morné.

"He [Fouché] had two good Currie Cup seasons and we have confidence in his ability to start and do the job for us."

Asked about promoting Venter, who wasn't originally in the touring team, ahead of Baby Bok Jan Serfontein, who was a member of the original touring squad, Ludeke said it was about managing the players.

"We had one-on-ones with them and they know where they stand," the coach said, adding: "We back both of them.

"Jan will get his opportunity."

By Jan de Koning

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