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Ken Borland

Bulls bring in pace & battering rams to counter Frans Steyn 0

Posted on October 15, 2020 by Ken

Embrose Papier and Jade Stighling have been brought into the Bulls team to counter the pace of the Free State Cheetahs in Friday night’s Super Rugby Unlocked match in Bloemfontein, with Duane Vermeulen returning and Clinton Swart called up for his debut in an effort to negate the battering ram play of Francois Steyn at inside centre.

Johan Grobbelaar, starting at hooker, is the other player brought into the starting line-up which was announced on Wednesday afternoon. Coach Jake White has also shifted Cornal Hendricks from inside to outside centre and shuffled his bench with U21 star Joe van Zyl called up to cover hooker, Gerhard Steenekamp replacing injured loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka, and Nizaam Carr coming in as the replacement loose forward instead of Elrigh Louw.

Here’s why the changes fit in specifically with the Cheetahs in mind:

Jade Stighling – White called winger Stighling “one of the quickest players in the squad” and his selection in the number 11 jersey, with the lanky and elusive David Kriel moving to right wing and Travis Ismaiel left out, is aimed to counter the Cheetahs getting too much space and time out wide.

“The Cheetahs make quite a few line-breaks and Jade has massive pace, he’s one of the quickest players in the squad. But they also concede quite a lot of line-breaks, so if we can make some then we will have the pace to get up in support and create a few nice opportunities,” White said.

Embrose Papier – While White has committed himself to rotating his two Springbok scrumhalves, he admitted Papier’s game is better suited to the pace and expansiveness of the Cheetahs.

“I always said Embrose would get game time, it’s not like he’s our No.2 scrumhalf, and he’s also one of our quickest players, which comes back to those line-breaks the Cheetahs both make and concede. I’m looking forward to seeing how he combines with that backline and Free State rely on lots of pace, so we need to see if we can counter that,” White said.

Duane Vermeulen – The looming figure of the Springbok eighthman and colossus is likely to spend plenty of time in the inside centre channel to make sure Francois Steyn’s forays end before the gain-line. Captain Vermeulen, for his part, said the swelling on his knee has gone down and he is looking forward to ensuring that the Bulls execute their plans better than they did last weekend against Griquas.

Clinton Swart – The 1.84m, 105kg Swart played under White at Toyota Verblitz and may not be a flashy centre in the mould of Cornal Hendricks, but he is very direct and ideally suited to countering the sort of game Steyn plays. He also has a very handy boot and there’s little doubt one of White’s major tactics against the Cheetahs will be to pin them in their own half and make them run from deep and he now has three accomplished kickers in Morne Steyn, Gio Aplon and Swart to achieve this.

“I know what Frans Steyn can offer and if you give him lots of gain-line then the Cheetahs will play around him, so his presence was a big influence in our selection. Clinton came from Free State so he knows them well. We’re not going to be able to get away with playing Hendricks and Gans in midfield every week and I would also like to see Cornal at outside centre – that might also be a stroke of genius and he has been running well with Clinton,” White said.

Nizaam Carr – While Elrigh Louw enjoyed himself with hall-in-hand when he came off the bench against Griquas, that role can now be fulfilled by Vermeulen. Against a team as pacy as the Cheetahs, the Bulls are going to need a more openside type flank and Carr fits the bill perfectly to come off the bench and lift the tempo.

Bulls team: Gio Aplon, David Kriel, Cornal Hendricks, Clinton Swart, Jade Stighling, Morné Steyn, Embrose Papier, Duane Vermeulen (C), Arno Botha, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Johan Grobbelaar, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements – Joe van Zyl, Gerhard Steenekamp, Mornay Smith, Sintu Manjezi, Nizaam Carr, Ivan van Zyl, Chris Smith, Stedman Gans.

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