VODACOM BULLS MAKE INTENTIONS CLEAR AHEAD OF BRISTOL CLASH

Jan 12 • General News, Heineken Champions Cup, Heineken Cup, International, National, Other Tournaments, South Africa, South Africa • 87 Views • Comments Off on VODACOM BULLS MAKE INTENTIONS CLEAR AHEAD OF BRISTOL CLASH

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The Vodacom Bulls have made their intentions clear ahead of their clash with the Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate on Saturday afternoon. The Tshwane-based outfit, mentored by Jake White, have set their eyes on a victory in the city that straddles the River Avon which would put them in good standings in the pool ahead of their final group stage clash back on home soil.

The South Africans – after two games – lie in third place in Pool 1, level on points with a superior points difference to Saracens and this weekend’s hosts, Bristol Bears. A victory in the southwest of England would give the herd a good advantage towards advancing into the next round, a goal that White says the team is pursuing without any hesitation.

“We have come here to win, it is that simple.”

“The reality is, this is a make or break fixture for both teams because the reality is whoever wins this match is almost, almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs,”

“It is a tough competition. Winning one and losing one has left us in the middle of the pool and this fixture will give us clarity on where we potentially will finish. This is a massive game for us because it could influence the next four to five weeks in terms of our planning and travel across both the Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship.”

On the expectations against Bristol, White said: “Over the last few weeks they have mauled a lot and they have played well. They would have gotten a lot out of their victory over the Sail Sharks, so we expect them to come at us fired up,”

“They are definitely not an 8th on the log team but maybe they just started the season badly and now they are playing catch up; however, they are a good side playing in a really competitive league.”

The match on Saturday 13 January 2024 will kick off at 15h15 [17h15 South African Time] and will be broadcast live on SuperSport Rugby.

The herd will run out at Ashton Gate with a front row comprising of loose-head prop, Gerhard Steenekamp alongside Jan-Hendrik Wessels at hooker and Wilco Louw at tight head supported by the lock duo of Ruan Vermaak and Reinhardt Ludwig in the second row. Club co-captain, Marcell Coetzee line up at blindside flank alongside Elrigh Louw on the open side with Mpilo Gumede at eight.

Embrose Paier (scrum-half) and Johan Goosen (fly half) will marshal the troops at half-back with Harold Vorster and David Kriel commanding play at centre. Sergeal Petersen (left) and Sebastien de Klerk (right) combine as this week’s speedsters with Devon Williams providing versatility and skill at fullback.

White will have the services of Simphiwe Matanzima, Tiaan Lange, Khutha Mchunu and Ruan Nortjé who returns to full fitness after a few weeks on the sideline. Deon Slabbert, Keagan Johannes, Chris Smith and Henry Immelman complete the 5-3 split impact squad.

On the current mood in his camp, as the troops return from the short festive break, White remarked: “We are in a nice place as a club where we still have our destiny in our own hands in both competitions. We can still have home playoffs and finish at the top,”

“We played well against Lyon and it was just one or two playing decisions that we could have made differently which would have seen us take five points but we got a lot of learnings out of there.”

On the return of Harold Vorster to match fitness, the seasoned mentor said: “Having him back with the experience he has and age will do us well. He pairs up with David (Kriel) who has done well for us as well,”

“We also have the pair of Ruan Nortje and Ruan Vermaak returning which is nice for us and adds more depth to our squad,”

“The nice thing about where we are as a group is that whether we interchange players in different roles, we seem to do well.”

On the decision to rest the triumphant Springboks quartet, White said this was not an indication or sign of prioritizing the one competition over the other.

“It is a catch-22 because when do you rest and when don’t you rest them? The reality is they need to be given an eight-week break. This doesn’t mean we prioritise the one competition over the other because we have big ambitions for both,”

“Yes, there was an idea to rest the one and keep the other however I decided on giving the mass a rest because they play better as a combination, so I’d rather have them together than one and not the other,”

“So, I looked at the players we have and thought this will not influence our planning that much but rather give them off now which will be an extra week over Christmas with their families but nothing untoward the competitions.”

VODACOM BULLS vs BRISTOL BEARS STARTING XV: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Ruan Vermaak, 5. Reinhardt Ludwig, 6. Marcell Coetzee (c), 7. Elrigh Louw, 8. Mpilo Gumede, 9. Embrose Papier, 10. Johan Goosen, 11. Sergeal Petersen, 12. Harold Vorster, 13. David Kriel, 14. Sebastian de Klerk, 15. Devon Williams

VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Simphiwe Matanzima, 17. Tiaan Lange, 18. Khutha Mchunu, 19. Ruan Nortjé, 20. Deon Slabbert, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Chris Smith, 23. Henry Immelman

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