Springboks’ influence to decide crunch Bulls, Sharks URC derby

Canan Moodie of Bulls runs in a try against Leinster last season.

Canan Moodie is one of the Bulls’ returning Springboks for the match against the Sharks. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Dec 2, 2023

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Sharks coach John Plumtree made a valid point about too much being made about the Springbok World Cup influence in the massive United Rugby Championship (URC) derby between the Sharks and the Bulls in Pretoria this afternoon.

Still, it is hard to discount the potential impact of the Boks.

Take the Bulls back three, for example. On Friday coach Jake White picked Kurt-Lee Arendse on the right wing and with Canan Moodie in his preferred position in the No 11 jersey, you have to wonder about the mischief veteran Willie le Roux can conjure up from fullback.

Le Roux will be licking his lips at setting up two of the fastest fliers in the game and the Sharks will kick badly at their peril. The Bulls’ back three is that dangerous and the visitors cannot afford to gift them counter-attacking opportunities.

In any case, the Sharks are committed to a ball-in-hand approach and that suits a backline in which every player has played for the Springboks, even if some of them — Curwin Bosch, Francois Venter, and Aphiwe Dyantyi — fall into the “former Bok” category.

Plumtree said this week that while the return of the Sharks’ World Cup winners had undoubtedly boosted the team, it is a Sharks side that will run out at 3pm, not the Springboks.

Plumtree’s opposite number, White, has a different take on it.

“We are going to have four World Cup winners running out for us and they are using their available World Cup winners as well. For the first time, the crowd will get the chance to see World Cup winners on the field and I am hoping that will be a great boost for the fans,” the former Bok coach said before adding that he was unsurprised that the Sharks bounced back against the Dragons last week, with their Boks at the helm.

“It didn’t surprise me; a lot of their players are world-class,” White said. “I was looking at their backline, all of them are Springboks plus two of their reserves. It was only a matter of time before they got it right and we saw them scoring 10 tries against the Dragons at home and I am sure they will be a lot more confident after they got a win.”

Plumtree agreed.

“We needed that win desperately to boost our confidence and we go to Pretoria knowing that if we have a good chance of winning if we back our game plan,” the New Zealander said. “We have to fire all of our shots because winning at Loftus is one of the great challenges in the URC.

“The Bulls are a confident, consistent team. They put Connacht away with ease, and we lost to Connacht.”

White countered by saying: “It will be a tough match. Last year they beat us, so we are not taking anything for granted despite the (contrasting) starts we have had.

“Both teams will be looking for a win and every team wants to win their home game. Any away game is so difficult to win and we have seen the stats. Especially derbies, they are like double-swingers as well, if you get a win it’s like an eight-point swing because you take points from the game as well as points away from people in your conference.”

TEAMS FOR LOFTUS

Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Phepsi Buthelezi, 6 James Venter, 5 Emile van Heerden, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu.

Subs: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Corne Rahl, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

Bulls – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 David Kriel, 11 Canan Moodie, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Cameron Hanekom, 7 Elrigh Louw (c), 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Replacements: 16 Jan Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Deon Slabbert, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Sebastian de Klerk.

IOL Sport