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Ken Borland

Simelane at centre, wing or fullback? Hendricks at wing or centre? Kriel at fullback or centre?

Posted on October 31, 2022 by Ken

Wandisile Simelane at centre, wing or fullback? Cornal Hendricks at wing or centre? David Kriel at fullback or centre?

These were the questions Bulls coach Jake White was faced with when he selected his team for their opening United Rugby Championship match against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, and last season’s beaten finalists announced a new-look backline on Friday.

Most interest centred around where Simelane, signed from the Lions during the winter, would fit in, and the talented 24-year-old will debut at fullback. That means an interesting shift to centre for Kriel, who played most of his rugby for the Bulls in the No.15 jersey before White decided he wanted more counter-attacking threat from the back.

“It’s important with the way the game is going and the way I like to coach, for players to be interchangeable,” White said on Friday. “Look at the All Blacks, where Beauden and Jordy Barrett and Richie Mounga run the game in different positions. It’s not about the number on your back.

“Wandisile is a gifted footballer, I believe he was offered a scholarship as a kid by Kaizer Chiefs. He just has that feel for the game, the way he kicks with such good timing.

“And with Lukhanyo Am playing at No.13 for the Springboks and being one of the best in the world, for Wandi to play for the Boks, he needs to be more versatile.

“We swopped the backs around a bit, but they understand each other. We want to change our game a bit and there have been some discussions about what we can add,” White said.

S’bu Nkosi will also make his Bulls debut on the opposite wing to Hendricks, while the other player to pull on the blue jersey for the first time will be eighthman Mihlali Mosi, the 26-year-old who was signed from the Free State Cheetahs.

“Mihlali was a Muir College boy and he also has great feel, great touches, and I was loving his great lines in training. I’m looking forward to him running into some holes on Saturday because he really understands support lines.

“He’s not small either, so he’s also a lineout option at the back, whether catching or lifting. He’s in a pack with a couple of Springboks and hopefully he learns from them and it raises his game,” White said.

The coach said flyhalf Johan Goosen is almost fit to play again, “but we won’t rush things, we want to make sure he is ready, make sure he is mentally comfortable”.

Utility forward Jacques du Plessis, props Simphiwe Matanzima and Lizo Gqoboka, utility back James Verity-Amm and loose forward Muller Uys are the other players with injury concerns.

Bulls: Wandisile Simelane, Cornal Hendricks, Lionel Mapoe, David Kriel, S’bu Nkosi, Chris Smith, Embrose Papier; Mihlali Mosi, Ruan Vermaak, Marcell Coetzee (CAPT), Ruan Nortje, Walt Steenkamp, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements – Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Dylan Smith, Francois Klopper, Janko Swanepoel, Marco van Staden; Zak Burger, Morne Steyn, Stedman Gans.

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