Preview: Bulls playing 'catch-up'

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 15:08

SUPER RUGBY PRE-SEASON: For the majority of the South African teams, the start of the season is just two weeks away.

For the Bulls, there is an additional week of 'pre-season' and that is why their approach to Saturday's trip to Wellington - the picturesque town in the Western Cape Winelands.

While the Stormers are already introducing some of their frontline players, including a handful of Springboks, the Bulls are using the trip to give more fringe players game time.

The Bulls' New Zealand coach John Mitchell said the more experienced and Bok members of the team will be more prominent in the weeks to come.

"We on a different timeline to every other team in the country," Mitchell said.

"We don't start the competition until the 24th [of February], so we very mindful around developing 38 players rather than just focusing on what potentially will be the top 23 or 24 going into the first round.

"That's very much an important part of our plan.

"Last week [when they field two teams - against the Lions and Sharks] we started with all the young guys.

"There will be more closure in their minds about the level and the intensity of this competition.

"This week we flipped our starters and our finishes and it just happens to be that [flank] Roelof [Smit] starts this week and an injury to [lock] Aston [Fortuin] has obviously allowed us to progress some of the more experienced locks into the team.

"As we move forward to the competition, we will be introducing more experienced players," Mitchell added.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has a very different approach.

He said that the players are looking forward to testing themselves against the Bulls before the campaign gets underway.

"The players have worked very hard in the pre-season, so this match will give us a good chance to get some competitive game-time under our belts," Fleck said.

"We want to ensure that our players are up to speed, so that we can be at our best at the start of what will be another demanding season," he added.

Teams:

Stormers squad:

Forwards: Jaco Coetzee, Jan de Klerk, Stephan de Wit, Johan du Toit, Jacobus Janse van Rensburg, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Salmaan Moerat, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, John Schickerling, Chris van Zyl, Kobus van Dyk, Cobus Wiese.

Backs: Craig Barry, Damian de Allende, Dewaldt Duvenage, Dan Kriel, Eduan Keyter, Dillyn Leyds, Justin Phillips, Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule, Josh Stander, EW Viljoen, George Whitehead, Damian Willemse.

Bulls: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Andell Loubser, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Jano Venter, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Conraad van Vuuren, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements - from: Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka, Frans van Wyk, Lodewyk de Jager, Marco van Staden, Thembelani Bholi, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, John Jackson, Dries Swanepoel, Jade Stighling, Franco Naude.

Date: Saturday, February 3
Venue: Boland Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 16.00 (14.00 GMT)
Referee: Egon Seconds

By Josh Isaacson
@isaacson_j
@rugby365com

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