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Ken Borland

Bulls & Stormers can drive buses through opposition defences, but tight derby expected between them 0

Posted on June 13, 2023 by Ken

There have been United Rugby Championship games where both the Bulls and Stormers have been able to drive buses through the opposition defence, but when last season’s finalists meet in a massive derby in Cape Town on Friday night, a tight spectacle is expected by the visitors.

Both teams were amongst the leading try-scorers last season and have thrived on counter-attack, with exciting back threes carrying the ball back to great effect. But Bulls fullback Wandisile Simelane said on Tuesday that he expects swarming defence to be a key feature of Friday’s humdinger.

“Any South African derby is always going to be difficult because we really study each other well,” Simelane said. “Games like these are great to be part of and it’s where you test yourself.

“I assume it’s going to be a tight match, a momentum game and putting points on the board will be crucial. I expect the defences to rush up on the faster guys, but opportunities will still come.

“If we don’t get five or six chances like usual, then there will be one or two and we have to make sure we make them really count. It’s about how well we execute in those one or two moments.

“Momentum will be very vital, we can’t throw the ball away, keeping it for a few more phases will be very beneficial. We mustn’t throw 50/50 miracle passes,” Simelane said.

While the romantics would love the match to be decided by a Simelane sidestep or a piece of Manie Libbok magic, the reality is it is the forwards who will have the key roles; from the tremendous platform laid by evergreen Stormers props Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff, to the bruising gainline presence of Elrigh Louw and Marco van Staden that can leave opponents purple and pink.

Some big oaks have departed the Bulls kraal, but the shrubs that are coming up in their place show great promise. In the white-heat of battle, the 24-year-old Simelane knows being able to control and manage the contest will be crucial.

“Hopefully we will be calm enough to control the game and our game-managers can put us in the right positions. We love having ball-in-hand on attack, using our natural instincts, but there is a thin line between relying on natural instinct and building pressure through being more conservative,” Simelane said.

Simelane at centre, wing or fullback? Hendricks at wing or centre? Kriel at fullback or centre? 0

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.

Simelane is on a mission to gather as much proficiency in all facets of the game as he can 0

Posted on October 18, 2022 by Ken

Wandisile Simelane has a burning desire to improve his game in all facets and his time with the extended Springbok squad last year and his move to the Bulls for the 2022/23 season have been used as a means to gather as much proficiency as he can.

Simelane has long been considered as one of the country’s brightest young talents and his selection for the initial 46-man squad for the British and Irish Lions series raised hopes of him making his Springbok debut.

In the end the established and world-class pairing of Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende did South Africa proud, but Simelane soaked up the atmosphere and the learnings to be gained at elite level.

“I learnt a lot, and I realised I need to get better in every aspect of my game, including things like work-rate, training and just being in that environment,” Simelane told The Citizen.

“It really helped me both as an individual and as a rugby player. Just being around Lukhanyo Am, who is one of the best No.13s in the world, you put yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t learn from him.

“He is an inspiration and a role-model to me, and there were others too like Jesse Kriel, Frans Steyn and Damian de Allende, who are great centres. You take bits and pieces from everyone and add it to your own game.

“I’ve always believed every rugby player in South Africa should aspire to play for the Springboks, and hopefully I’ll be back there sooner rather than later. It’s definitely my number one goal,” Simelane said.

While the 24-year-old did not want to go into the reasons why he left the Gauteng Lions this year, there was a sense among neutral observers that his game did not grow at Ellis Park, the Lions did not make the best use of him, over the last year, and playing in an exciting Bulls backline featuring Springboks in Embrose Papier, Morne Steyn, Lionel Mapoe, Cornal Hendricks, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Sbu Nkosi, Johan Goosen and now Canan Moodie, could see Simelane fulfil his potential in the coming season.

Apart from all that star quality and wise old heads, Simelane, as a Jeppe High old boy, was also delighted to come under the wing of school legend Jake White, and also get the chance to play alongside Nkosi, Jeppe’s most recent Springbok.

“Jake winning the World Cup in 2007 was a massive achievement and knowing he’s a Jeppe old boy, he’s a great hero at the school and in South African rugby generally,” Simelane said.

“When the opportunity came to be coached by him at the Bulls, I didn’t think twice. I can gain so much knowledge from him.

“Unfortunately, when Sbu played first XV at Jeppe, I was still U16 and I missed playing with him by one year,” Simelane said.

As fate would have it, the Bulls’ opening United Rugby Championship fixture this season is against the Lions at Ellis Park on September 17, but the Johannesburg-born player will not be focusing on the unhappy memories of his previous home.

“I’m definitely excited to start the season and I’m looking at it as my first game for the Bulls and not the first match I will play against the Lions.”

The Lions tended to shift Simelane away from the midfield and play him on the wing, but he said this was not the cause of his unhappiness.

“I don’t mind at all, I don’t care if I play wing, centre or fullback, as long as I am in the team. It doesn’t bother me much. Number 13 is my main position, my number one choice, where I want to be a specialist.”

The defensive nous required to be a world-class outside centre will no doubt come with more experience, but what Simelane already possesses are the feet of a magician.

“I guess it’s just natural instinct, it’s something that gets better and better the more I play, since my school days. But the key is to keep working on it,” Simelane, who first started playing rugby in Grade V at Dalmondeor Primary in Johannesburg South, said.

He is a nightmare to defend against if he’s in space because of his ability to not only beat the man with a late sidestep, but also his passing skills. Many of his team-mates have profited from delayed ball that has put them right through the gap.

“To make the most of space, I like to use the pass also. It depends on how you analyse different players, what you want to achieve as a team and also your feel for the game.

“The more I put myself in those situations in training, the more I will make the right decisions. It’s something I’ve had to work hard on too,” Simelane said.

Simelane will be 25 when the next World Cup is played and then the Springboks will surely enter a new cycle in terms of personnel. Hopefully the selectors don’t leave it too late to introduce him to the international stage that seems to be his destiny.

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