As the Vodacom Bulls calmly and confidently head into the final stages of preparation for the much-anticipated Guinness Pro14 Rainbow Cup final against Benetton in Treviso Italy, Director of Rugby Jake White has named his strongest possible squad to hunt for gold at the end of the Rainbow, given the exclusion of players called up for Springboks and Blitzboks duty and those ruled out due to injury.
White has made three changes to his starting lineup that did battle against the Cell C Sharks a week ago, with Chris Smith getting into the number ten jumper in the absence Morne Steyn, Nizaam Carr on the openside with Marco van Staden also at the Boks and Jan Uys slotting in at lock in the number five jersey with Janko Swanepoel dropping to the bench. All three players bring an amazing energy and excitement to the group, with Smith sharing the top try scorer position for the team together with Madosh Thambwe and David Kriel.
The remainder of the backs stay unchanged with the electric trio of outside backs, David Kriel, Madosh Thambwe and Stravino ‘Rocket-man’ Jacobs, looking to continue expressing themselves and enjoying the ball. The midfield duo of in-form Cornal Hendricks and Marco Jansen van Vuren resume their solid partnership, while Springbok scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl will run out for his last Pro Rugby match for the Vodacom Bulls.
With only the two changes to the forwards, White will expect the same consistency and showing that the team enjoyed last weekend. Inspirational captain Marcell Coetzee once again leads from the back of the scrum, with Carr and Ruan Nortje rounding up the loosies. Jan Uys gets his first run-on for the competition partnered by Walt Steenkamp. Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar and Gerhard Steenekamp are rewarded for a great season with retaining their front row spots.
On the bench we see the return of Springbok prop Lizo Gqoboka and the inclusion of Zak Burger as well.
White reemphasised the importance of the mission, “Even though it’s such a huge honour to be part of this historic game, we must remember that we are here on a mission… a mission to return to South Africa with the Rainbow Cup. I’ve asked the boys to enjoy every moment of this experience, as they have worked really hard and been committed to our goals. Being in this final is the first part of their reward, lifting the trophy will be their ultimate reward. Benetton is a great team, and have been in amazing form this season and it is a privilege going up against them in the final.”
Benetton, the Italian outfit, are the only unbeaten side across both sections of the competition, a stunning turnaround after their winless 2020-21 Guinness PRO14 campaign. The Vodacom Bulls finished eight points clear at the top of the South African standings after losing only one of their six Rainbow Cup fixtures, earning their place in the long-awaited first cross-hemisphere clash of the competition. This is the Bulls first trip to Italy and the two sides have never met before in any tournament, which no doubt increases the excitement among rugby fans.
15. David Kriel (Betway Centurion)
14. Madosh Tambwe (Pretoria)
13. Marco Jansen van Vuren (Pretoria)
12. Cornal Hendricks (Northam)
11. Stravino Jacobs (Harlequins)
10. Chris Smith (Harlequins)
9. Ivan van Zyl (Tuine)
8. Marcell Coetzee (ABE Midas Naka Bulle – C)
7. Ruan Nortje (ABE Midas Naka Bulle)
6. Nizaam Carr (Betway Centurion)
5. Jan Uys (Pretoria)
4. Walt Steenkamp (Betway Centurion)
3. Mornay Smith (Betway Centurion)
2. Johan Grobbelaar (Tukkies)
1. Gerhard Steenekamp (ABE Midas Naka Bulle)
16. Schalk Erasmus (Tuine)
17. Jacques van Rooyen (Tuine)
18. Lizo Gqoboka (ABE Midas Naka Bulle)
19. Janko Swanepoel (Pretoria)
20. Muller Uys (Tukkies)
21. Zak Burger (Tuine)
22. Clinton Swart (Tukkies)
23. Gio Aplon (Betway Centurion)
24. Robert Hunt (Harlequin)
25. Keagan Johannes (Tukkies)
26. WJ Steenkamp (Tuine)
27. Dawid Kellerman (Pretoria)
28. Sydney Tobias (Northam)