There is an air of excitement gripping Loftus Versfeld ahead of the Vodacom Bulls’ 2022/23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship season which kicks off with a clash against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.
The leader of the Vodacom Bulls herd, captain Marcell Coetzee, revealed that after an intensive few weeks of pre-season training, his charges are raring to go and are eager to run onto the Emirates Airline Park turf when they take on their arch-rivals in the Jukskei Derby.
“It’s the first Vodacom URC game and everyone is excited. It has been a grueling six weeks of pre-season and now everyone is just looking forward to the first game,” said Coetzee.
“We know the quality of the Emirates Lions and their leadership under Jaco Kriel and Reinhard Nothnagel. They are brilliant at the breakdown and other areas of their game.
“It’s the first game – things might be a bit rusty and all over the place – but the quicker we can find our feet, get our systems implemented and maintain our composure; then we should be in for a good game.”
The Vodacom Bulls are wary of the difficulties that they should expect at the Emirates Lions stomping ground and are cognizant of the threat the side will pose as they seek a positive start to their own campaign.
“It will always be difficult, but at the same time it is always enjoyable playing at Emirates Airline Park,” said the captain.
“It is always a great venue to play rugby and the Emirates Lions are a quality outfit as well. In essence, we will focus on our own systems and just try to enjoy the game.”
Coetzee alluded to the Vodacom Bulls’ slow start to their campaign last season, indicating that he and his charges have worked on areas where they lacked in the early parts of the inaugural season. The side remains pleased with the manner in which they ended the season where they finished runners-up to champions, DHL Stormers.
“Last season was our first time playing in this tournament, and as expected, there were a lot of questions and wondering as we tried to find our feet. In the end, we can be proud of how we conducted ourselves,” he said.
“Ultimately, it’s now a new season and teams know each other now. When the overseas teams come to South Africa, they will know what to expect. It will be about how quickly you adapt to your structures and systems. There were a few areas in our game which we were not entirely happy with, particularly towards the final, but have had time to reflect and adjust a few things that can take us to the next level.”
The Vodacom Bulls captain is also pleased with the manner in which the side’s new signings have slotted into their new team environment, crediting the pre-season period for easing them into the structures and culture of the team.
“The bonus about having a pre-season period is that it gives you time to learn a bit on the field and off the field. I think our new recruits are settling in very well and there is some quality talent coming through,” he said.
“The new signings have established themselves and blended well into the team environment. I’m quite curious and excited to see how they will go this weekend. It looks like they are enjoying it and hopefully they will show it on the pitch.”