The Bulls, battered, bloodied and downright bad in this season’s Super Rugby, simply have to beat New Zealand’s weakest franchise the Highlanders. I am not giving up on the potential of the Bulls to finally get a first win in the 2020 campaign.
I like the selection of halfbacks Embrose Papier and Manie Libbok. They are the future and the playing investment has to be in giving this talented pair as much game time as possible.
Veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn is a wonderful mentor/squad addition for this season and his final year in 2021, but his contribution must primarily be in a supporting role to the Super Rugby education of Libbok.
Papier, so promising two seasons back, also has to be given a consistent starting role.
No halfback pairing can function effectively without a decent pack and the Bulls have enough talent in the starting eight to beat the challenge of a Highlanders side low on experience and equally challenged when it comes to all-round quality.
Springboks prop Trevor Nyakane, as captain and as one of the strongest set piece exponents in world rugby, must lead from the front. He has to be primary to the destruction of the vulnerable Highlanders. The visitors lost 18 players in the off-season to retirements and movements within New Zealand and offshore. They are there to be hammered.
The Bulls have been awful all season, but the youthful injection of Bulls u21 captain and former Western Province and SA Schools No 8 Muller Uys adds spice to a revamped pack that just hasn’t got it together in 2020. The expectation has to be of more influence from former Lions and Scottish loose-forward Josh Strauss and flanker Marco van Staden.
Fullback Warrick Gelant is overdue a big match and this weekend the Bulls have to rely on more than just winger Rosko Specman’s brilliance.
I am backing them to finally break their tournament duck.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Trevor Nyakane (captain), 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ryno Pieterse, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Divan Rossouw