CAPE TOWN – Some of the Lions players may have extra motivation for tomorrow’s Super Rugby Unlocked showdown with the Bulls, but they better get ready for a pack that Jake White wants to grow into the “biggest, strongest and meanest” the visitors have ever fielded.
That was the warning from Bulls director of rugby Jake White yesterday after including new recruit Walt Steenkamp in the only change to the starting line-up that thrashed the Stormers 39-6 last week.
Steenkamp arrived in Pretoria on November 1 from the Cheetahs, and will take over the No 5 jersey from Ruan Nortje, who got a knock to the knee and is taking a breather this week.
The 25-year-old Steenkamp will make the Bulls pack even bigger, as he stands at 2.03m and 123kg according to White, compared to the younger and leaner Nortje, who is 2.00m and 117kg.
“Of course it’s my kind of pack! I want the biggest, strongest, meanest pack of forwards that the Bulls have ever produced. To have him in there, 123kg, 2.03m tall, great scrummager. He won the Currie Cup with the Free State, and won the first two games now as well,” White said about Steenkamp.
“Walt was in the team that beat us a month ago, so why not put him into the side? He knows how to win and will add some value.”
White added that another former Cheetahs lock, Sintu Manjezi, can play in both second-row positions and with No 4 Jason Jenkins returning to Japan after the Lions match, he will get more opportunities. Several former Bulls players such as Burger Odendaal and Marvin Orie will have a point to prove for the Lions, but White felt that his team can handle whatever the home side can throw at them.
“There will be extra spice from us as well. There are no nasty feelings from our side (towards the former Bulls players now at the Lions). But we know them better than what they know us, which is quite nice,” said White.
“What makes it difficult for any team is that the Lions do so many unexpected things. The way they kick, the way they attack – they run out of their own half, and are not a stereotypical team.
“They ask you questions, and do things that other teams don’t necessarily do. They want quick ruck speed and move the ball around, and they make the most passes and most offloads – that’s their game. But we know what we got wrong against the Cheetahs, and now we play against the same sort of team.”
The former Springbok coach also couldn’t hide his delight about how a team he is coaching is being perceived.
White’s game plan was usually a conservative, forwards-based style of play, which has evolved into an all-encompassing attacking approach that has taken them to the top of the log.
“I have been surprised that it’s taken a relatively short time to get (the Bulls) to gel like that, but I’m not surprised that the style is like that. The speculation before the season was whatever it was, but I’ve coached in Australia, France and Japan and done a lot of coaching – different situations, teams, styles,” he said.
“Part of the excitement now is that I am not getting labelled as a conservative, Afrikaans kicking coach who just plays with a big pack of forwards, and that’s quite nice!
“It’s more difficult for teams to defend against us. If they don’t stop our forwards, our forwards will go through them, and if they put too much emphasis on our forward pack, we’ve got backs who can run around them and carve them as well. Sevens backs and Bulls forwards – it’s not a bad combination to play every week.”
15 David Kriel 14 Travis Ismaiel 13 Stedman Gans 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Morné Steyn 9 Ivan van Zyl 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Walt Steenkamp 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Bench – 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Gerhard Steenekamp 18 Marcel van der Merwe 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Embrose Papier 22 Chris Smith 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren