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This is the fourth article in the series of Bulls Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2014. We do 2 articles per week per South African Super Rugby participating franchise.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for LOOSE FORWARDS in the Vodacom Bulls 2014 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

 

 

The Contenders:

Name: Deon Stegmann:

Position Loose Forward (Openside)
Height 1.81m
Weight 104kg
Date of Birth 22 March 1986
Place of Birth Cradock
Provincial Debut 2005 for Vodacom Blue Bulls in Vodacom Cup
Provincial Caps 57
Provincial Points 40
Super Rugby Debut 2008 for the Bulls
Super Rugby Caps 75
Super Rugby Points 25
Test Debut 6 November 2010 vs Irealnd
Test Caps 6
Test Points 0
Deon Stegmann

Deon Stegmann attended Cradock Primary School and South Africa’s top-ranked rugby school, Grey College in Bloemfontein, where he was selected for the SA schools team. During high school he was a track and field athlete and played number 8 (as well as flank) in Grey College’s First XV loose trio, alongside Springbok and Cheetahs flank Heinrich Brussow, and Cheetahs flank Richardt Strauss. He also attended the University of South Africa (UNISA).

He made his Super 14 debut for the Bulls in 2008 at the age of 21.

Stegmann is a classic fetcher with a low centre of gravity who is thriving under the new law interpretations- and his anticipation, together with his toughness, is a huge asset for the Bulls. He made the number 6 jersey his own in 2008 after playing in every Super 14 match and being awarded Bulls Forward of the Year in 2008.

He has been one of the Super Rugby’s best openside flankers from 2008 to 2011. He is one of the hardest working players in the Bulls’ squad, as well as a superb team player with a very high work rate, regularly leading the tackle count, turnover and work rate stats for the Bulls. He has a time of 10.8 seconds in the 100 metre sprint.

At the Bulls, Stegmann played in a back row combination together with Springbok flank, Dewald Potgieter (now in Japan) and Springbok No 8, Pierre Spies, winning 2 Super 14 titles in 2 successive years as well as the Currie Cup.

In 2013, he signed a contract extension to keep him at the Blue Bulls until 2015.

His playing career is as follows:

  • 2004 – Free State – U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week
  • 2005 – Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Blue Bulls – Under 19 Competition
  • 2006 – Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition
  • 2007 – Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2008 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Compulsory Friendlies, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2009 – Bulls – MTN test, Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2010 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Springboks – Outgoing Tours
  • 2011 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Springboks – Castle Tri Nations, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2012 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2013 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division

Deon’s long term injury during the whole Currie Cup campaign in 2013 leaves us wondering whether he has recovered sufficientlyand is fit enough to combat in the Super Rugby campaign. He always gives his all and is a fetcher of note, who was sorely missed by the Blue Bulls in the latter stages of 2013. He should start at openside flank for the Bulls.

 

Name: Arno Botha:

Position Loose Forward (Blindside or No 8)
Height 1.90m
Weight 103kg
Date of Birth 26 October 1991
Place of Birth Modimolle (Nylstroom)
Provincial Debut 2011 for Blue Bulls vs Pumas
Provincial Caps 16 PLUS 2 Vodacom Cup games
Provincial Points 20
Super Rugby Debut 2012 for the Bulls vs Reds
Super Rugby Caps 22
Super Rugby Points 5
Test Debut 8 June 2013 vs Italy
Test Caps 2
Test Points 0
Arno Botha

Arno Botha is a product of Nylstroom Primary School, Nylstroom High School and the University of Pretoria (Tuks).

He played Under 18 rugby for Limpopo in the Craven Week in 2009.

In 2010 he joined the Blue Bulls and played in the ABSA Under 19 Competition.

In 2011 he played for Tuks in the Varsity Cup, played for the Blue Bulls in the ABSA Under 21 Competition, Captained South Africa in the IRB Junior World Championships and already played Currie Cup Premier Division Rugby for the Blue Bulls.

There is a very bright future ahead of this 22 year old, who is rapidly progressing through the rugby ranks. He toured with the Springboks to the Northern Hemisphere in November last year, barely a year after captaining the South African Under 2o team to the IRB Junior World Championship.

In 2013, he signed a contract extension to keep him at the Blue Bulls until 2016.

He was was also named South Africa Under 20 player of the year.

Botha made his debut for the Springboks against Italy on 8 June 2013 at Kings Park Stadium in Durban as the No. 7 flank. In his second test against Scotland on 15 June 2013 in Nelspruit, Botha left the field after four minutes of play, having ruptured ligaments in his left knee.

His playing career is as follows:

  • 2009 – Limpopo – U18 Coca-Cola Craven Week
  • 2010 – Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 19 Competition
  • 2011 – Tuks – Varsity Cup, South Africa – IRB Junior World Championships (Captain), Vodacom Blue Bulls =- ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition
  • 2012 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Springbok tour member – Castle Outgoing Tours
  • 2013 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Springboks – Castle Incoming Series

Arno should make the Bulls blindside starting position, hoping that his knee injury is a thing of the past.

 

Name: Pierre Johan “Pierre” Spies:

Position Loose Forward (No 8)
Height 1.94m
Weight 108kg
Date of Birth 8 June 1985
Place of Birth Pretoria
Provincial Debut 2005 for Blue Bulls vs Griquas
Provincial Caps 17
Provincial Points 20
Super Rugby Debut 2005 for Bulls vs Brumbies
Super Rugby Caps 102
Super Rugby Points 125
Test Debut 15 July 2006 vs Wallabies in Brisbane aged 21
Test Caps 53
Test Points 35
Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies is a product of Skuilkrans Primary School, Afrikaans Hoër Seunsskool (Affies) in Pretoria and attended the University of Pretoria.

He made his senior debut for the Blue Bulls in 2005 in a match against the Griquas. Spies made his Super 12 debut against the Brumbies, becoming the youngest player ever to represent the Bulls. After being injured in his first ever Super 12 match, he made his comeback through the national under-21 league, where he scored nine tries in just six games.

Although he plays as a loose forward, he has considerable pace, having been timed at 10.70 seconds over 100 m. This is especially impressive considering his size (194 cm tall and 111 kg) – he has played wing for the Bulls and Springboks when they experienced an injury crisis. Spies is known as one of the best ball carriers in the game – he can step, run around or over a defender.

After starring for the U21 Springbok side that played in the U21 Rugby World Cup France, Spies made his debut in the Springbok’s 49 – 0 drubbing at the hands of Australia in the 2006 Tri Nations Series. Spies was largely anonymous in that game, however, Springbok coach Jake White picked him again for the home-leg of the tournament. There, Spies turned in two “Man-of-the-Match” performances, most notably in the win over the All Blacks in Rustenburg, and in the victory over Australia in Durban.

He was widely praised for these performances against world-class opposition, but unfortunately was injured in a dismal Springbok showing against Ireland on the end of year tour. This injury ruled him out for the rest of the tour, as well as much of the 2007 Super 14 season, but has since made his comeback for the Bulls in their 49 – 12 victory over southern rivals the Stormers.

Spies was believed to be a certainty for Jake White’s squad for the 2007 Rugby World Cup to be played in France in September, and his selection was confirmed on 21 July. However, nine days later, he was forced to withdraw from the World Cup squad after blood clots were found in his lungs. After a check up with another health expert, it was stated that Spies could return to the World Cup squad if a third opinion was positive. However, the third opinion confirmed the original diagnosis, and Spies remained off the team. He returned to the Springboks’ team for the 2008 June internationals against Wales.

While being in treatment and under the eye of the team’s physicians, Spies kept on training and as soon as he received the green light, he returned to competitive rugby . That year he was nominated SA Currie Cup Player of the Year, SA Player of the Year, International Player of the Year and got the award for SA’s most Promising Player of the Year, as well as Sportsman of the Year.

He married Juanne Weidemann, in December 2008.

In 2009, he played well in the Super 14 and was selected for the Springboks to play against the British & Irish Lions. He was also selected for the end of the year tour, but injured his finger and was ruled out.

He continued at the Bulls and Blue Bulls and took over the captaincy mantle from Victor Matfield when Victor retired from playing rugby.

His playing career is as follows:

  • 2005 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 12, Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Qualifying Round, Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2006 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Springboks – Vodacom Tri-Nations, South Africa – IRB Under 21 World Championship, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Springboks – Vodacom Outgoing Tours
  • 2007 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Springboks – Vodacom Incoming Tours, Springboks – Vodacom Tri-Nations
  • 2008 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Springboks – Vodacom Incoming Tours, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Springboks – Vodacom Tri-Nations, Springboks – Vodacom Outgoing Tour
  • 2009 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Springboks – British & Irish Lions Tour, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Springboks – Vodacom Tri-Nations
  • 2010 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super 14, Springboks – Vodacom Incoming Tours, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Springboks – Vodacom Tri-Nations, Springboks – Outgoing Tours
  • 2011 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Springboks – Castle Tri-Nations, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Springboks – chosen for IRB Rugby World Cup but withdrawn due to blood clot problems
  • 2012 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Springboks – Castle Incoming Tours, Springboks – The Rugby Championship
  • 2013 – Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Springboks – Castle Incoming Series

Pierre needs to re-invent himself somewhat in 2014, defend better and put in more of the hard graft associated to No 8 play, otherwise he will be overtaken by players in the Bulls for the No 8 spot. He has already been overtaken by Duane Vermeulen for the Springbok No 8 spot. Pierre should be the regular No 8 for the Bulls in Super Rugby 2014.

 

Name: Willem Andries “Wiaan” Liebenberg:

Position Loose Forward (Openside)
Height 1.89m
Weight 105kg
Date of Birth 31 August 1992
Place of Birth Brackenfell
Provincial Debut 2012 for Blue Bulls in Vodacom Cup vs Sharks XV
Provincial Caps 18
Provincial Points 50
Super Rugby Debut
Super Rugby Caps 0
Super Rugby Points 0
Test Debut
Test Caps 0
Test Points 0
Wiaan Liebenberg

Wiaan Liebenberg is a product of Bastion Primary School, Drostdy HTS and the University of Pretoria (Tuks).

He represented the Boland Cavaliers at the Under 18 Academy and Craven Week tournaments in 2009 and 2010 respectively, which lead to his inclusion in the South African Under 18 High Performance Squad in 2010.

He also moved to the Blue Bulls where he played at Under 19 and Under 21 level. In 2012 and 2013 he also played for Tuks in the Varsity Cup.

He made his debut for the senior team during the 2012 Vodacom Cup in a match against the Sharks XV.

In 2012 Liebenberg was included in and named captain of the SA Under 20 squad for the 2012 IRB Junior World Championship. The team went on to win the tournament for the first time.

His playing career is as follows:

  • 2009 – Boland – U18 Academy Week
  • 2010 – Boland – U18 Craven Week, South Africa – SA U18 High Performance
  • 2011 – Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition, Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 19 Competition
  • 2012 – Tuks – Varsity Cup, Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, South Africa – IRB Junior World Championship (Captain), Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2013 – Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Tuks – Varsity Cup, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division

Wiaan has some serious pedigree and talent and should be Deon Stegmann’s understudy for the Openside berth at the Bulls in 2014.

 

Name: Willem Hendrik Jacques “Jacques” du Plessis:

Position Loose Forward (Blindside)
Height 2.01m
Weight 119kg
Date of Birth 12 August 1993
Place of Birth Pongola
Provincial Debut 2013 for Blue Bulls in Vodacom Cup vs Limpopo Blue Bulls
Provincial Caps 12
Provincial Points 10
Super Rugby Debut
Super Rugby Caps 0
Super Rugby Points 0
Test Debut
Test Caps 0
Test Points 0
Jacques du Plessis

Jacques du Plessis is a product of Pongola Academic Primary School, Ermelo High School and University of Pretoria (Tuks).

After representing the Natal Sharks in the 2006 Under 13 Craven Week competition, he moved to Ermelo and subsequently represented the Pumas at the 2009 Under 16 Grant Khomo Week and 2011 Under 18 Craven Week tournaments. His performance in the latter tournament lead to his selection in the 2011 South African Schools squad.

In 2012, he joined the Blue Bulls and made 12 appearances for them in the 2012 Under 21 Currie Cup competition.

He made his senior debut for the Blue Bulls in 2013, starting in the 110–0 thrashing of the Limpopo Blue Bulls. He also started the game the following week in an equally impressive 89–10 victory against the Griffons, a match that saw him score his first try, dotting down shortly after halftime.

In July 2013, the Blue Bulls announced that he signed a contract extension until 31 October 2015.

In July 2013, he was named on the bench for the Bulls’ Super Rugby match against the Stormers.

He was included the SA Under 20 squad for the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship, where he was one of the few Junior Springbok real performers in the pack with a high tackle and activity rate.

He also played some Varsity Cup rugby, representing the Tuks in the 2013 Varsity Cup competition. Towards the end of 2013 he also represented the depleted Blue Bulls team in the Currie Cup Premier Division.

His playing career is as follows:

  • 2006 – Natal – U13 Coca Cola Craven Week
  • 2009 – Pumas – U16 Grant Khomo
  • 2011 – Pumas – U18 Craven Week, South Africa – SA Schools
  • 2012 – Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 19 Competition
  • 2013 – Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Tuks – Varsity Cup, Vodacom Bulls on bench – Vodacom Super Rugby, South Africa – IRB Junior World Championship, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division

With Arno Botha back from injury, Jacques du Plessis would most probably see some game time off the bench, covering both lock and blindside flank.

 

Name: Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht:

Position Loose Forward (Blindside or No 8)
Height 1.94m
Weight 112kg
Date of Birth 10 June 1985
Place of Birth Bellville
Provincial Debut 2007 for Western Province
Provincial Caps 82
Provincial Points 40
Super Rugby Debut 2013 for Southern Kings
Super Rugby Caps 17
Super Rugby Points 5
Test Debut
Test Caps 0
Test Points 0
Vleis Engelbrecht

Vleis Engelbrecht is a product of Fanie Theron Primary School and Monument High School.

He started playing for the Western Province, being involved in their Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup squads. In 2008 he moved to the SWD Eagles where he played for two and a half years before joining the Eastern Province Kings for the 2011 season. He was also named in the Southern Kings squad for the 2013 Super Rugby season, where he excelled to such a degree that the absense of Luke Watson was not felt.

After the 2013 Super Rugby season, he joined the Blue Bulls, signing a contract at the team until October 2016.

In 2010 and 2011 he represented the Blitzbokke in the HSBC Sevens World Series and also represented the SA Barbarians South team in 2012.

His playing career is as follows:

  • 2005 – Boland – ABSA Under 21 Competition
  • 2007 – Vodacom WP – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division
  • 2008 – Vodacom WP – Vodacom Cup, SWD Eagles – ABSA Currie Cup First Division
  • 2009 – SWD Eagles – Vodacom Cup, SWD Eagles – ABSA Currie Cup Compulsory Friendlies, SWD – ABSA Currie Cup First Division, SWD Eagles – ABSA Currie Cup Promotion / Relegation
  • 2010 – SWD – Vodacom Cup, SWD – ABSA Currie Cup Compulsory Friendlies, SWD – ABSA Currie Cup First Division, SWD Eagles – ABSA Currie Cup Promotion / Relegation, Blitzbokke – HSBC Sevens World Series George
  • 2011 – EP Kings – Vodacom Cup, South African Kings – IRB Nations Cup, EP Kings – ABSA Currie Cup Compulsory friendlies, EP Kings – ABSA Currie Cup First Division
  • 2012 – EP Kings – Vodacom Cup, SA Barbarians South – Castle Incoming Tours, EP Kings – ABSA Currie Cup First Division
  • 2013 – Southern Kings – Vodacom Super Rugby, Southern Kings – Super Rugby Promotion / Relegation, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division

As one of the stand-out players for the Southern Kings in Super Rugby in 2013, Vleis’ form took a serious dip during the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division season for the Blue Bulls and he will have to get his fitness and mojo back if he has aspirations to lift any of the 3 Springboks amongst the Bulls loose forwards from their starting berths. He is a versatile loose forward, covering both blindside and No 8 and will probably get a number of bench impact roles in 2014.

 

Name: Jonathan Montague “Jono” Ross:

Position Loose Forward (No 8)
Height 1.91m
Weight 110kg
Date of Birth 27 October 1990
Place of Birth Sandton, Johannesburg
Provincial Debut 2011 for Blue Bulls vs SWD Eagles in Vodacom Cup
Provincial Caps 22
Provincial Points 10
Super Rugby Debut 2013 for Bulls vs Southern Kings
Super Rugby Caps 4
Super Rugby Points 0
Test Debut
Test Caps 0
Test Points 0
Jono Ross

Jono Ross is a product of St. Peters Primary School, St. Stithians High School, University of South Africa (Unisa) and University of Pretoria (Tuks).

He started off playing for the Golden Lions and represented them at the 2007 and 2008 Under 18 Academy Week tournaments. He also represented them in the 2008 Under 19 Currie Cup competition.

He then joined the Blue Bulls and played for their Under 21 team in 2010 and 2011.

He made his senior debut in 2011, coming on as a substitute in the 2011 Vodacom Cup match against SWD Eagles, as well as in the quarter-final match against former team the Golden Lions.

He made his debut in the Currie Cup competition a few months later in 2011 against Griquas and made one further appearance that season. He established himself as a regular in the team for the 2012 Vodacom Cup, making eight starts and scoring a try.

At the conclusion of the 2012 Vodacom Cup, he joined English side Saracens for one season, making two appearances in the 2012–13 LV Cup.

In 2013 he returned to the Blue Bulls and was called into the Bulls Super Rugby side for their match against the Kings and making 4 appearances in total during the 2013 Super Rugby season.

In only his third ever Currie Cup match – in the 2013 Currie Cup Premier Division season against Western Province – he was named captain of the Blue Bulls, becoming the first-ever English-speaking captain of the team. At the end of 2013, he signed a contract extension to tie him to the Blue Bulls until October 2016.

In addition to playing for the Blue Bulls, he also represented Tuks in the annual Varsity Cup competition in 2011, 2012 and 2013, also acting as Captain in the latter years.

His playing career is as follows:

  • 2007 – Lions – U18 Academy Week
  • 2008 – Lions – U18 Academy Week, South Africa – SA Schools Academy, Golden Lions – ABSA Under 19 Competition
  • 2010 – Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition
  • 2011 – Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Tuks – Varsity Cup, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Under 21 Competition
  • 2012 – Tuks – Varsity Cup, Vodacom Blue Bulls – Vodacom Cup, Saracens in LV Cup
  • 2013 – Tuks – Varsity Cup, Vodacom Bulls – Vodacom Super Rugby, Vodacom Blue Bulls – ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division (Captain)

Jono Ross is one of the Bulls loose forwards on the fringes of selection in a match day squad, but if injuries occur amongst the Springbok loose forwards at the Bulls he could well get eiether a starting or bench berth in 2014.

 

Starters:

The Bulls will probably start with Deon Stegmann (No 6 Openside), Arno Botha (No 7 Blindside) and Pierre Spies (No 8), with either or both Jacques du Plessis and Vleis Engelbrecht on the bench. My personal choices would have been different though, with Pierre spies NOT in the starting lineup but rather with Arno Botha and Vleis Engelbrecht at Blindside and No 8 (either could play blindside or No 8 and could even swap in a game)… the reason being the Bulls need that harder edge on attack and defence, which Pierre Spies no longer provides (or as some would have is never provided). Both Arno Botha and Vleis Engelbrecht also play more towards the ball which would strenghten the breakdown contest of the Bulls.

Whatever the situation, the Bulls have great loose forwards and enough depth there to make sides cringe at the prospect of playing against the Bulls loosies. Here’s hoping the injuries stay away for some injury prone Bulls loose forwards.

 

The next Article in the range will deal with the Bulls scrumhalves.

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