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Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

The Vodacom Bulls may be on top of the South African Super Rugby conference, but they know there’s a tough road ahead until the end of regular season play.

The Bulls thrashed the Reds 43 / 22 at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, but out of their 8 remaining league matches, only 2 will be at home.

They tackle the Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers away over the next 2 weeks, before facing the Emirates Lions at home.

After that, 4 games in Australasia await against the Blues (15 May), Chiefs (22 May), Brumbies (29 May) and Melbourne Rebels (6 June).

Their last league game is at home against the Toyota Cheetahs on 13 June.

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Burger Odendaal

Burger Odendaal

Hanro Liebenberg

Hanro Liebenberg

Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has some uncomfortable decisions to make as his team head into the next phase of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The use of the squad system has done them well so far with the injuries they have had, but there are still some pressing concerns about the form of certain players, which need to be addressed with a number of young upstarts knocking hard on the door.

At both loose forward and in the midfield, Ludeke will have to make decisions going forward as to who will be the better combination and what will serve his team’s interests better as they edge towards the top of the South African conference.

Saturday’s 31 / 19 win over the Crusaders was a remarkable one not only for the commitment of the players on the field, but for the injuries they suffered before kickoff – losing Lappies Labuschagne and Arno Botha before the game started and Jan Serfontein in the midfield as well.

With a long tour still ahead of them later in the season, the next few weeks will be crucial to secure as many points as possible on South African soil, starting with Saturday’s Jukskei derby against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

While the normal Monday assessment still needs to happen, it seems Labuschagne could be back in contention for his starting spot this weekend, and on the form of Saturday, it would be hard to deny Hanro Liebenberg another go at the opposition given the big performance he gave coming into the side at such late notice.

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Jesse Kriel

Jesse Kriel

Regular captain and No 8 Pierre Spies is back at the helm of the Vodacom Bulls when they take on the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld on Friday in Round 2 of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

Spies takes over the captaincy from Victor Matfield and the No 8 jumper from Arno Botha, who picked up an injury in the Vodacom Bulls tournament opener last weekend against the DHL Stormers.

The regular Bulls leader was eased back into action off the bench, but is now fit to start in a team that shows 4 changes to the starting line-up and 6 all-together from the one that started their campaign with a disappointing loss against the Cape side.

Spies comes in for Botha, with his place on the bench taken by rookie loose forward Hanro Liebenberg, who could earn a first start should he take to the field.

The injury to Werner Kruger also resulted in a front row shuffle. Trevor Nyakane will move from the left side of the front row to the right and Morné Mellett off the bench into the No 1 jersey.

A fit-again Dean Greyling will take Mellett’s place on the bench.

The other unforced change is at fullback where Jesse Kriel will start, with Jurgen Visser moving down to the bench in a straight swop with the Junior Springbok player.

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Grant Hattingh

Grant Hattingh

Bulls lock Grant Hattingh is reportedly heading to Japan after the completion of this year’s Super Rugby competition.

Bulls High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, said that Hattingh has a “Japan clause” in his contract.

Should Hattingh leave for Japan, he would miss this year’s Currie Cup competition, but return in time for Super Rugby in 2016.

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Adriaan Strauss

Adriaan Strauss

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named Adriaan Strauss at hooker when he announced his team to play the DHL Stormers in the opening round of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Strauss, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Vodacom Bulls in 2006 (8 matches), is back in the Pretoria side after a long stint with the Toyota Cheetahs (for whom he played 97 times) and was put straight into the starting team by Ludeke.

The coach also included Vodacom Bulls debutants Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane, but neither are strangers to the competition. Labuschagne played for Toyota Cheetahs in 27 matches (debut 2012) and Nyakane represented the same franchise 42 times (debut 2012).

The rest of the team consists of tried and tested players, with the most experienced captain in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby, Victor Matfield, leading the team onto the field for the 83rd time.
Regular captain Pierre Spies, who made his last appearance in Super Rugby in Round 1 last year against the Sharks in Durban, will play off the bench as he is eased back into action following his long lay-off.

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Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the Bulls believe in him as a player and leader.

There is no doubt the 29-year-old has all the physical attributes to be one of the best No 8’s in the world, even though his contribution sometimes disappoints and he will continue to have his detractors.

However, it is his value to the Bulls’ cause and the team that convinced coach Frans Ludeke to name him skipper ahead of esteemed players like Victor Matfield, Adriaan Strauss and Deon Stegmann.

Speaking ahead of their trip to London this week – for Saturday’s outing against Saracens at Allianz Park – Ludeke explained that Spies was the preferred captain for the past 2 years, a period during which major injuries limited his appearances.

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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.

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The 4th Article in the set discussing the Vodacom Bulls.

In this Article we look at the contenders for LOOSE FORWARDS in the Vodacom Bulls 2013 Super Rugby group, and what their worth will be in Super Rugby terms.

Wow, 5 CURRENT or very RECENT Springbok Loose Forwards in the Bulls Super Rugby group and only 3 can start a game… Plus 2 Junior World Champion Under 20 SA players in the broader squad. Which other Super Rugby side can muster or even sniff such quality?

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The Bulls started their preparations for next season’s Super Rugby competition at Loftus Versfeld’s B-field in Pretoria on Monday. It is scary when you read the list of players that are not Bulls anymore. The 4 most used captains are all in that list.

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The Proteas’ Castle Lager squad came up with a dynamic new approach to limited overs cricket during the 2011 ICC World Cup in India earlier this year.

Now they have a fresh challenge in adapting to the significant changes that have been made to the playing conditions for ODI cricket. That starts with the three-match series against Australia, the first contest of which is at SuperSport Park on Wednesday (2.30pm).

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Two like-minded teams will clash in what should be an entertaining, fast-paced game played at Etihad Stadium (Melbourne) this saturday. Talk about the sub-standard turf shouldn’t change their mindset as both coaches have named strong line ups, ready to run the ball. Continue reading

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