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Ken Borland

Bulls likely to bring more fizz to their match against Griquas 0

Posted on October 12, 2020 by Ken

Coach Jake White may have joked this week that because they have lost the element of surprise by using their new expansive approach in their warm-up game against the Sharks a fortnight ago they are going to revert back to “just kicking up-and-unders and Charge!”, but the Bulls are likely to still bring plenty of fizz to their opening Super Rugby Unlocked match against Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The raw pace of Kurt-Lee Arendse may be missing due to injury, but his replacement on the wing, young David Kriel, showed plenty of finishing ability, and the centre pairing of Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans, who did much to mastermind the fantastic backline display against the Sharks on SuperFan Saturday, are still in place.

When an inveterate dazzler like Gio Aplon says he is loving the game-plan at Loftus Versfeld, then you know the coach has given his charges the freedom to run. But the veteran fullback did also issue a word of pragmatism ahead of the clash with tricky opponents, who hammered the Bulls 37-15 in Pretoria last year in the Currie Cup.

“I’m really enjoying the game-plan and it’s very exciting being at the Bulls right now. But first and foremost our goal is to win. So at some stages we might kick more and at others we will play more rugby. We want to find whatever way we can to win and we want to be unpredictable. We will do whatever is necessary for us to win.

“The Bulls are a team with good tradition and a great history and we want to get their name back up there. It’s a massive honour, especially at my age, to play for them and we’re not here to compete, we want to win competitions,” the 38-year-old Aplon said.

While White has been able to lure back stars such as Aplon, stand-in captain Arno Botha, Jason Jenkins and Jacques van Rooyen, as well as investing in a host of exciting young prospects, and can afford to rest Springbok star Duane Vermeulen due to a knee niggle, there is a financial gulf between the Bulls and Griquas.

Nevertheless, Scott Mathie’s team from Kimberley do possess some quality players.

Fullback Anthony Volmink can certainly match any of the Bulls’ backline for pace and is a potent finisher, while flyhalf and captain George Whitehead has Super Rugby experience and is a smart head whose tactical and goal kicking could make the difference for Griquas.

Niell Jordaan, the former Shimlas star, is a hardened eighthman and he will relish taking on Tim Agaba now that the daunting Vermeulen is no longer his direct opponent, while prop John-Roy Jenkinson has returned from Japan to play for Griquas and will pack down against Van Rooyen in an intriguing battle in which both men weigh 122kg.

White knows, however, that his team is expected to win well and all the positive vibes from the Sharks game will be erased should they struggle.

“Of course it’s always a risk taking on one of the so-called minnows without all your first-choice players, and we understand that they will want to prove a point. But last year the Bulls lost against Griquas so I don’t even need to give them a team talk, I can just show them the highlights of that game. We expect them to be fired up and confident because they won here last year.

“But we need to focus on what we can control, which is playing to a certain standard and the type of game we want to execute. I’m not trying to be arrogant but we want to be one of the best club sides in the world and if we’re going to prove that in Europe next year then we need to be top here in South Africa, like Leinster are over there,” White said.


Bulls – Gio Aplon, Travis Ismaiel, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks, David Kriel, Morne Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Tim Agaba, Arno Botha, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Corniel Els, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Lizo Gqoboka, Mornay Smith, Sintu Manjezi, Elrigh Louw, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marco Jansen van Vuren.

Griquas – Anthony Volmink, Daniel Kasende, Harlon Klaasen, Andre Swarts, James Verity-Amm, George Whitehead, Zak Burger, Niell Jordaan, Stefan Willemse, Carl Els, Victor Sekekete, Ian Groenewald, John-Roy Jenkinson, HJ Luus, Mox Mxoli. Replacements: Alandre van Rooyen, Bandisa Ndlovu, Madot Mabokela, Adre Smith, Zandre Jordaan, Gideon van der Merwe, Ashlon Davids, Berton Klaasen.

Kick-off – 7pm.

Bulls players to bring the fizz

David Kriel

The former member of the Stormers squad stands nearly two metres tall and looked a real threat with ball in hand when he came on against the Sharks on SuperFan Saturday. Comfortable anywhere in the back three, he is good under the high ball, a strong runner and with a step that is reminiscent of former Springbok and Western Province great Pieter Rossouw. Jake White has high hopes that the Potchefstroom-born Kriel will become a favourite son at Loftus Versfeld.

Cornal Hendricks & Stedman Gans

The new Bulls centre pairing went toe-to-toe with a highly-rated Sharks midfield of Jeremy Ward and Lukhanyo Am and won the battle convincingly. White’s decision to move Hendricks from wing to inside centre was a surprise, but it certainly worked as the Springbok showed he was up for the physical challenge, while still showing the deft touches of an international-quality player.

Gans played a fantastic game at outside centre against the Sharks, the Springbok Sevens captain showing an uncanny knack for finding space and fully exploiting it, and his decision-making on defence was also on-point.

Gio Aplon

The 38-year-old fullback showed he still has plenty of pace when he inserted himself into that dynamic backline against the Sharks and Griquas could come to grief if they don’t close him down quickly. Aplon’s talent for stepping is well-known, but as an experienced general at the back he has also become highly adept at scanning the field and directing tactical play.

Griquas players to watch

Anthony Volmink

The much-travelled 30-year-old has plenty of experience, including 20 Super Rugby games for the Lions, and has built his reputation on his try-scoring ability. Volmink has played most of his rugby on the wing but was outstanding at fullback last year for Griquas as they made the Currie Cup semi-finals. The Bulls will have to be on guard for his propensity for moments of individual brilliance.

George Whitehead

Apart from being a strong leader in the Griquas set-up, Whitehead has the all-round skills to dictate strategy from flyhalf and has developed into a reliable goal-kicker. The Griquas general certainly had Bulls fans squirming last year at Loftus Versfeld.

Niell Jordaan

The former Cheetahs captain is a ferocious eighthman who is always up for the forward challenge. He will bring power but also offloading skills as Griquas are likely to try and produce some good running rugby.

John-Roy Jenkinson

The 29-year-old Glenwood High School product has returned from the Japanese Top League, where he gained further high-level experience. Jenkinson won the Currie Cup First Division with the North-West Leopards in 2015, the same year he was named in the Varsity Cup Dream Team, and he actually made three appearance for the Bulls in Super Rugby in 2017 and is acknowledged as a powerful scrummager.

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