Ken Borland

By Ken Borland

Journalist


Jake White picks star-studded Bulls backline for URC clash with Connacht

'They all like to keep ball in hand, and in training we see so many line-breaks and so many supporting lines. So hopefully we can keep ball-in-hand on Friday evening.'


Lifelong Bulls fans will have seen some brilliant backlines in their lives, but not many will be more exciting than the unit coach Jake White announced on Thursday for their United Rugby Championship match against Connacht at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Five Springboks, four of them who are part of the national team’s current plans, have been named. New sensations Kurt-Lee Arendse (fullback) and Canan Moodie (right wing) will have a slightly more experienced international in Sbu Nkosi for company in a class back three.

‘Incredible backline’

Johan Goosen, who was eased back into action last weekend at fullback, returns as the starting flyhalf for the first time since injuring his knee 11 months ago, and there will be great interest in how he performs given how other experienced No.10s in the country seem to be falling by the wayside.

And then to round it all off, there is the veteran, evergreen Cornal Hendricks at outside centre. And two other backline Springboks on the bench in scrumhalf Embrose Papier and utility back Lionel Mapoe.

Even White called it “an incredible backline we’ve been able to put together”.

“But it’s their first time together as a combination and I look forward to seeing how quick it is before they click. They are all very talented.

“They all like to keep ball in hand, and in training we see so many line-breaks and so many supporting lines. So hopefully we can keep ball-in-hand on Friday evening.

“But rugby is also about clever kicking and they are all very clever rugby players. A guy like Canan can play 100 Tests for South Africa and people are now seeing what I see in him.

Read more: Will Canan Moodie join the growing ranks of Springbok utility backs?

“And then you have a guy like David Kriel at inside centre who sums up what we’re about at the Bulls – you need to be adaptable. He brings incredible work ethic and unbelievable skills and rugby intelligence,” White said.

Gorge between scores

Although there has been a gorge between Connacht’s score and that of their opponents in their first two URC matches – Ulster beating them 36-10 and the Stormers 38-15 – White says they are a team that stays in the game.

“Connacht never go away and in both matches, with 20 minutes left the result could have gone either team’s way. So we must not think that it’s going to just happen for us.

“They beat us 34-7 last season, which was the biggest score against us. So we know we must play well otherwise we’ll get another hiding.

“They are very direct and well-coached, a typical Irish team that fights till the end. They’re good with the ball and defensively. They were not easy games for either the Stormers or Ulster.

“Connacht play a style of rugby that is very difficult to contain. Against the Stormers they were still in the game until they lost Bundee Aki to a red card, they were just one score away,” White said.

Bulls team: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks, David Kriel, Sbu Nkosi, Johan Goosen, Zak Burger, Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Marcel Coetzee, Ruan Nortje, Walt Steenkamp, Francois Klopper, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp. Bench: Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Simphiwe Matanzima, Mornay Smith, Janko Swanepoel, Reinhardt Ludwig, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Lionel Mapoe.

Kickoff: 6.30pm.

Also read: Bulls saved by Steyn penalty & Edinburgh miss