Jake may ‘think out of the box’ to beat Leinster

Bulls centre David Kriel may be shifted to wing to cover for the injured Kurt-Lee Arendse against Leinster. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls centre David Kriel may be shifted to wing to cover for the injured Kurt-Lee Arendse against Leinster. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 10, 2024


After a number of injury disruptions, Bulls coach Jake White says he will have to be “brave” when picking the team for Saturday’s blockbuster United Rugby Championship semi-final against Leinster at Loftus Versfeld (4pm kick-off).

Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse is the latest casualty after sustaining a fractured cheekbone in their 30-23 quarter-final win over Benetton, while Canan Moodie had an operation on a broken finger on Friday.

White will hope that No 8 Cameron Hanekom is not feeling the effects of a massive tackle on Benetton replacement Alessandro Garbisi, after which he stayed down for a while before being replaced in the 60th minute.

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But there are finally some positive developments, with Springbok loose forwards Marco van Staden and Marcell Coetzee likely to return from knee injuries.

“He’s going for an op tomorrow (Sunday). It looks like he’s fractured the bone in his cheekbone so when I say it’s not too bad, it’s a fracture,” White said about Arendse, who took a blow to the face in a tackle on Benetton centre Malakai Fekitoa.

“They’re going to put a plate in, and try to get him in as quickly as they can – not because we need him in the next two weeks, but to get him ready for the Tests.

“So, that gives him a (chance to recover in time for the Ireland series). It’s a little bit like the Dupont thing: Dupont got injured, got that operation the next day.”

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But while Sergeal Petersen came on for Arendse, and Sebastian de Klerk started at right wing in place of Moodie, there could be some surprise backline selections against Leinster.

“We need to have depth, and we need to trust the other players,” White said.

“And that’s another thing I’m really happy about – we put all the bench (players) on. Reinhard Ludwig is a young guy, (Francois) Klopper is a young front-row player, and the way they finished the game, with a relatively inexperienced group of players – and Sergeal hasn’t played for a while.

“To mark (Tommaso) Menoncello and the Fijian winger (Onisi Ratave) and Fekitoa, you’ve got to be on top of your game.

“Sergeal is the only guy in the Bulls changeroom who’s won the URC. So, to have him there and have his experience ... He’s played against the Bulls when we were rampant, and they won 18-13.

“I’m hoping – and I’m not going to give the team away – that Marcell’s back next week, Marco’s back next week, which gives you two more really senior players.

“Backs-wise, David Kriel’s played wing and has been good under the high ball. There’s other centres we can pick: we played Province yesterday in a friendly, and some guys played really well.

“Sometimes you might have to think out of the box, just in terms of what you want to get out of the game.

“I will have a look at the Leinster-Ulster game, and then I’ll get a good feeling for what the call has to be. You do have to sometimes be brave – you can’t be picking a team according to what you guys (the media) might think it must be ... I might change it a bit.

“So, we might have to think out of the box. Once I watch the game, and I understand what they’re trying to do, or what I think they might expose us on, then we’ll put the team together that I think can win, or that I hope can win.

“I don’t think I have to say too much. I will have to just get the selections right, get the combinations right, the bench good enough for us to use the skill and depth that we’ve created.”

But White did mention that Johan Goosen – who produced a top performance against Benetton – played at centre for French club Racing 92 previously, so that is another option and Chris Smith is a solid option at No 10.