Burger returns for Vodacom Bulls celebrations of origin versus the DHL Stormers

Burger returns for Vodacom Bulls celebrations of origin versus the DHL Stormers

The Vodacom Bulls will celebrate 19 schools in its matchday 23 for round 11 of the 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship which is dedicated to rugby Origins of the franchise rugby ecosystem. The team out of Tshwane will lace up their boots for what should be an entertaining battle against old foes, the DHL Stormers in the North-South derby set for Saturday 02 March.

With only 120 tickets still available for sale, the encounter is destined to be played in front of a sold-out crowd at Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The herd is boosted in morale by the return of Wilco Louw and Zak Burger who make returns from injury. Louw was sidelined by a shoulder knock sustained in Bristol whilst Burger has recovered from a knee ding in Lyon. Louw slots into the front row - at tight-head prop - alongside Gerhard Steenekamp (loose-head) and Johan Grobbelaar (hooker). Behind the trio will be lock combination of the Ruan’s. Marco van Staden lines up on the blindside with Reinhardt Ludwig at openside flank whilst Marcell Coetzee shifts to eighth-man duty.

The halfback partnership between Embrose Paier (scrumhalf) and Johan Goosen (flayhalf) will connect the forwards with the unchanged backline from round 10.

Director of Rugby Jake White says he is excited for the sold-out matchup.

“I am excited for tomorrow, it’s going to be nice for the guys. It is nice for them to play in front of a big crowd, baying for the franchise like in the past. I am glad they can be a part of that because I hope that will be the catalyst for us to kick on for the next couple of seasons,”

“It doesn’t get any bigger than this, besides a World Cup final, for a pool game it probably doesn’t get any bigger than this. Not many provincial players will have played in front of 51 000 people, besides the World Cup winners; there aren’t many provincial players who will have played in front of a big crowd like what is expected and that in itself comes with a challenge for the young guys who have not done that before and we must help them with that.”

Asked whether or not this match will serve as a marker, White responded: “The match is not make or break but a marker of where we are and what is working and what is not working, and we have a lot of things working for us. Where we were then and where we are now is chalk and cheese,” 

“Tomorrow for me, is irrelevant to what has happened before because our growth process is coming together. The calibre of players we have brought in, Akker, Willie, Nizaam and Devon have brought us experience and our combinations are coming together well.”

On the forced changes, the Vodacom Bulls mentor said: “The reality is you never have the full 23 that you want, some week you think you will have a particular player and they get injured and that changes the whole dynamic and for this clash, we have five changes compared to the last time we played them, I’d like to think that will make a difference,”

“It could be tight at the end and if you look at the past games, there haven’t been blowouts against us in the last couple of years, it has always been close encounters. So to have the experience of Springbok players coming on from the bench is going to be vital for us,”

On the team approach against their visitors and finding balance: “The secret is to find the balance and pitch up with your head on. We have lost to them a few times and in those few times we have lost to them, it has almost been through the inexperience of what is happening around you and that has been for both our experienced and younger players,”

“We must pitch up not just physically but also with an understanding of how the game is going to go, showing that we are clever enough and learnt the lessons from the last couple of seasons to understand that they will take the advantage if we give it to them. We have got to be a bit more street-smart about what they are trying to do and what we are trying to do to make sure they don’t do it right.“

On the encounter being almost sold out: “It is a wonderful thing for two South African sides to pull 50 000 people into the stadium for a pool game. The players and the people involved are (really) doing their bit for rugby South Africa.”

VODACOM BULLS vs DHL STORMERS STARTING XV: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp (Laerskool Mooirivier), 2. Johan Grobbelaar (Paarl Gymnasium), 3. Wilco Louw (Laerskool Wolseley/HTS Drostdy), 4. Ruan Vermaak (Wysneusies), 5. Ruan Nortje (c) (Hoerskool Wonderboom), 6. Marco van Staden (Hoërskool Bekker), 7. Reinhardt Ludwig (Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool), 8. Marcell Coetzee (c) (Suid-Natal Primary), 9. Embrose Papier (Hoerskool Gaasfontein), 10. Johan Goosen (Grey College), 11. Canan Moodie (Boland Landbou Laerskool George Suid), 12. David Kriel (Eikestad Primary), 13. Stedman Gans (Laerskool Vredenburg), 14. Kurt-Lee Arendse (Paulus Joubert High School), 15. Devon Williams (Paarl Boys High)

VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Simphiwe Matanzima (Queens College), 17. Akker van der Merwe (Laerskool George Suid), 18. Francois Kloppers (Winterton Primary School), 19. JF van Heerden (Grey College), 20. Nizaam Carr (Bishops School), 21. Zak Burger (Paarl Gimnasium), 22. Willie Le Roux (Locnerhof Primary School), 23. Mpilo Gumede (Durban High School)

MANAGEMENT: Jake White - Director of Rugby, Chris Rossouw - Assistant Coach, Werner Kruger - Assistant Coach, Gary Gold - Assistant Coach, Andries Bekker - Assistant Coach, Jean Tiedt - Assistant Coach, Kennedy Tsimba - Assistant Coach, Phiwe Nomlomo - Assistant Coach, John-William Meyer - Technical Analyst, Dr. Herman Rossouw - Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies - Physiotherapist, Darryn Berry - Physiotherapist, Andre Volsteedt - Strength & Conditioning, Yusuf Vahed - Sport Scientist, Elias Bennett - Team Manager, Simon Dyidi - Logistics Manager

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