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Jake White picks versatile Bulls team to face the Lions

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White.
Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

Bulls coach Jake White has expressed disappointment that South African teams will not be pitting their wits against their counterparts from the northern hemisphere in the Rainbow Cup.

PRO14 Rugby and SA Rugby have settled for dual Rainbow Cup tournaments with no cross-hemisphere fixtures as the Bulls‚ the Stormers‚ the Lions and the Sharks are not allowed to enter the UK and Ireland.

“I am disappointed because I think everyone‚ including the supporters‚ would have liked to see another competition with different opposition‚” said White as the Bulls prepared for the Rainbow Cup SA opener against the Lions at Loftus on Saturday.

“It is what it is and the positive thing about it is that this is another opportunity to play rugby‚ because a year ago we were not even playing rugby. If a year ago you asked the players to play against each other more often than usual or not play at all‚ everyone would have said let’s play against each other more times rather than not play at all.

“This situation is not the first prize but at least we can play rugby‚ develop our teams and hopefully when we get to the real competitions having had enough game time and tried enough combinations.

“You must remember I have only been with this group of players for a year and they have not played much rugby for two years. Some of these junior players have not played for even longer than two years.”

White said the Bulls’ focus in the competition will be to work on combinations and for players to get match fitness.

“Anyone wants to keep on winning. I think we have done really well but we want to keep the momentum going.

“For us is about growing and becoming better as a group and trying combinations like James Verity-Amm at fullback‚ and trying out the two locks together.

“Those are the sort of combinations we want to look at. We have three Springbok players in the form of Lizo Gqoboka‚ Morne Steyn and Arno Botha on the bench. It’s a great assert to have but also is to see what other combinations look like.

“If I went with Lizo and Trevor Nyakane at prop and Sintu Manjezi – I know he is injured – with Ruan Nortje at lock you basically learn nothing.

“What I would like to get out if this tournament is that we can build and still get some success. Try to get combinations for when we lose Springbok players to the national team or we play in the rain‚ or whatever the story we will be facing.”

White added that he has chosen a talented side to face the Lions even though Nyakane and Duane Vermeulen have been rested.

“Trevor and Duane were in alignment camps and I am sure you are aware that you have to give them one week’s time off‚ and this is the week where they are not available. This team is quite a quick‚ it has good athletes and good ball players in it and I am hoping that the weather is going to be nice and dry.

“Obviously it is raining today [Friday] in Pretoria but I am hoping that the sun comes out tomorrow [Saturday].

“This is a team that if we play the way we can‚ we can actually keep the ball alive and attack nicely because a guy like Gerhard Steenkamp played No.8 at school and he is a prop. Johan Grobelaar is a good athlete‚ Mornay Smith also a good athlete. Two locks who are good athletes and loose forwards like Nizaan Carr at No.8.”

Bulls: 15. James Verity-Amm‚ 14. Madosh Tambwe‚ 13. Marco Jansen van Vuren‚ 12. Cornal Hendricks‚ 11. Stravino Jacobs‚ 10. Chris Smith‚ 9. Embrose Papier‚ 8. Nizaam Carr‚ 7. Elrigh Louw‚ 6. Marco van Staden‚ 5. Ruan Nortje‚ 4. Janko Swanepoel‚ 3. Mornay Smith‚ 2. Johan Grobbelaar‚ 1. Gerhard Steenekamp

Replacements: 16. Joe van Zyl‚ 17. Lizo Gqoboka‚ 18. Jacques van Rooyen‚ 19. Walt Steenkamp‚ 20. Arno Botha‚ 21. Zak Burger‚ 22. Morné Steyn‚ 23. David Kriel‚ 24. Jan-Hendrik Wessels‚ 25. Reinhardt Ludwig‚ 26. Tim Agaba‚ 27. Diego Appollis