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Vodacom Bulls

Arno Botha

Arno Botha

The Vodacom Bulls are enjoying a BYE during this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby action and this will help the squad to get rid of little niggles, aches and pains. Chomping at the bit will be flanker Arno Botha, who is now fit again, having played off the bench for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup this weekend and playing in a starting position in the Vodacom Cup side on the weekend.

The rest will also result in a break for Callie Visagie (ribs), Lappies Labuschagne (SC joint) and Jacques-Louis Potgieter (hamstring), who will all again train next Monday.

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Vodacom Bulls vs Toyota Cheetahs

The Vodacom Bulls’ recent revival continued as they secured a 39 / 20 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday… moving them to 2nd in the SA Conference.

Handré Pollard was the visitors’ hero as he contributed 29 points via a try, 5 penalties, 3 conversions and a drop-goal. After last weekend’s morale-boosting win over the Sharks, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke will be delighted with the way his side dominated this game for large periods.

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BullsVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named the same run-on team from last weekend to face the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday in Bloemfontein in their first away trip in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

The same 15 that ran out in the win over the Cell C Sharks will front up in the Free State Stadium as the Vodacom Bulls looks to build the momentum gathered from the win against the coastal side.

Ludeke only made 1 change to the bench, where Piet van Zyl returns to Bloemfontein to face his former Super Rugby team.

“We finally found the momentum we were looking for in the opening rounds of the competition against the Sharks and managed 4 tries,” Ludeke said in Pretoria on Thursday.

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Jesse Kriel

Jesse Kriel

Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel says he’ll be making the most of his opportunities given to him this season.

Kriel, just 21, is quickly becoming a crowd favourite in Pretoria as he continues his rugby rise through the Bulls ranks.

While the team experienced a disappointing start to the Super Ruby campaign, suffering back-to-back defeats against the Stormers and Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld, they managed a 43 / 35 win over the Sharks in front of their home crowd last weekend.

Kriel has been one of the Bulls’ consistent performers during the Super Rugby campaign, and was delighted his team-mates could pull off a good victory against last year’s South African conference winners.

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Arno Botha

Arno Botha

Vodacom Bulls loose forward Arno Botha will return to training next week after recovering well from a pectoral muscle tear, but flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter could be on the side-lines for another week.

According to Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss, Botha will train next Monday and Potgieter, who picked up a hamstring injury last week, will be assessed then. Potgieter was a late withdrawal from the Bulls team that won against the Cell C Sharks on the weekend and could be out of action for 2 weeks.

No one picked up any injuries in that win, although Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann and Lappies Labuschagne only trained on Tuesday, due to light niggles.

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Super RugbyThe Toyota Cheetahs, Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers were victorious in 3 terrific Vodacom Super Rugby matches, as the competition really took off in the 3rd Round.

On Friday evening, the Toyota Cheetahs sneaked home against the Blues in Bloemfontein, winning their 2nd match of the season by 25 / 24 to remain 1 of only 4 unbeaten teams in 2015.

Saturday saw 2 local derbies of the highest calibre, with Test-like intensity. Mirrroing the encounter in Bloemfontein, the results of both these matches were in the balance right until the end.

The Vodacom Bulls prodcued their maiden win of the season when they beat the Cell C Sharks by 43 / 35 in a superb match in Pretoria. Then the DHL Stormers clocked their 3rd win from 3 matches when they beat the Emirates Lions by 22 / 19 in Johannesburg.

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Wiaan Liebenberg

Wiaan Liebenberg

Montpellier coach Jake White has his sights set on luring young Blue Bulls loose forward Wiaan Liebenberg to France.

The 22-year-old former Baby Bok captain is currently not in the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans – which makes a move to France very likely.

Loose forwards like Lappies Labuschagne, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann and his brother Hanro are ahead of Liebenberg in the pecking order at the Bulls.

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Marcel van der Merwe

Marcel van der Merwe

Vodacom Bulls prop Marcel van der Merwe has been cleared to return to the playing field and trained with the squad, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

The prop has recovered from a hamstring injury and ligament strain.

News on the injury of midfielder William Small-Smith has been less fortunate though, with the player being ruled out for at least 2 months with a foot injury.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke faces one of the toughest challenges of his career this week – resurrecting the Bulls campaign.

2 Losses at home from 2 outings has piled on the pressure for the Bulls, with the prospect of their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign further coming off the rails if they don’t beat the Cell C Sharks this coming weekend at Loftus.

And given their current form, it is a mighty ask.

All the promise and excitement pre-season for the Bulls with big victories over Saracens and the Toyota Cheetahs has been burnt up by 2 mediocre outings on their own hallowed turf.

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Vodacom BullsThe Vodacom Bulls lost their 2nd successive home match when the Hurricanes caused a minor upset by winning 17 / 13 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.

The last time the 3-time champions lost consecutive matches at home was in Rounds 2 and 3 in 2008. Incidentally, that was also the last year the Hurricanes won in Pretoria before this weekend.

The home team could not get into gear and were heavily penalised by referee Andre Lees. These and other errors proved very costly in the end.

Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard scored all the Vodacom Bulls’ points through a try, conversion and 2 penalty goals.

In the aftermath to the match, the Bulls and Hurricanes Press Conferences were a sight to behold!

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, wide-eyed as ever, seemed more strained than usual and once again underlined what he perceived as positives to be taken from the game. Captain Pierre Spies could not hide the shame and it appeared that he was deliberately looking down to avoid eye-contact with menbers of the Media.

On the other hand, Hurricanes Coach Chris Boys was in a juvial mode, making an early joke during the Press Conference, yet also stating that although they achieved to come “take Points” in South Africa, that he was not yet satisfied and felt that the Hurricans should improve.

 

Here are the Audio streams of the After Match Press Conferences:

Bulls after match Press Conference:

 

Hurricanes after match Press Conference:

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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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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls took quite a beating on the weekend against a DHL Stormers side who boasted far fewer Springboks and seasoned players than the Bulls.

Nick Mallett talks about how bad the Bulls really were.

JJ Engelbrecht, cited for a dangerous tackle received an off-field Yellow Card – a stern warning not to repeat the type of incident.

Frans Ludeke, Vodacom Bulls coach portrayed his usual diplomatic self… or is that his usual dim-witted self as some would have us believe, when questioned on the Bulls lacklustre performance on the weekend.

The Bulls also released a fitness report today, which reads like a war-veterans hospital checklist, with 3 more injuries, ahead of the Hurricanes clash on Friday evening. The injuries, specially amongst frontrowers are worrying, very worrying seeing as the Bulls scrums have been degenerating at a rate of knots in 2015… well actually for a number of seasons now… and the Bulls Brains Trust, if one could call it that, seems to have no answers to shore up the Bulls scrumming woes.

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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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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Eager fans will finally get to see whether the Bulls will make good on their promise of adopting an expansive game plan when they face the Stormers in their opening Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Stand-in captain Victor Matfield reiterated the point, saying they would be looking to win matches by crossing the whitewash rather than choking the life out of the opposition.

“We want to go out and score tries – if you don’t score tries you won’t win this competition. If you look at the stats each year, it is almost always the team that scores the most tries that wins it,” Matfield said in Pretoria on Wednesday.

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

After a stellar 2014 season, Springbok and Bulls flyhalf Handre Pollard knows he will be a marked man this year.

Pollard, 20, was at the weekend named SA Rugby Young Player of the Year after moving from the Baby Boks into the senior national team with aplomb.

He expects opposition teams to analyse him a little more thoroughly in 2015.

“I believe that will be the case,” he said. “We all analyse our opponents to try and disrupt them. That is my main challenge this year – to follow last season up with another good year. It will take a lot of hard work.”

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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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Juan de Jongh

Juan de Jongh

Stormers vice-captain Juan de Jongh insists they are fully focused on themselves and not the Bulls ahead of their opening Super Rugby game at Loftus on Saturday.

Both sides will be looking to get their 2015 Super Rugby campaign off to a good start with the Bulls being tipped as the favourites at fortress Loftus Versfeld where the partisan crowd, and altitude, is sure to swing the psychological advantage in the hosts’ favour.

“It is going to be a very important game this weekend to get our campaign on the road. We are focused on ourselves and making sure we get our things right.

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Dean Greyling

Dean Greyling

Marcel van der Merwe

Marcel van der Merwe

The Vodacom Bulls will be without Springbok props Dean Greyling and Marcel van der Merwe and World Cup winning winger Akona Ndungane for the opening weekend of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition. The Vodacom Bulls play DHL Stormers on Saturday night, but Ndungane (calf, 1 week), Greyling (foot, 2 weeks) and Van der Merwe (hamstring, 3 weeks) will not be part of the action.

To complicate matters a bit more for Vodacom Bulls coach, Frans Ludeke, winger Travis Ismaiel has been ruled out for selection due to a hamstring strain and prop Hencus van Wyk (foot) will only return to training at the end of the month.

All of Basil Short (pectoral), Jason Jenkins (quad), Trevor Nyakane (contusion), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (hamstring), Deon Stegmann (hip) and Jesse Kriel (neck) completed a full training session today.

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Jacques du Plessis

Jacques du Plessis

Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Friday confirmed that efforts to keep Vodacom Bulls locks Jacques du Plessis and Flip van der Merwe in Pretoria have been unsuccessful, with both players taking up contracts in France at the end of the domestic 2015 season.

Du Plessis has signed a two year deal with Montpellier and Van der Merwe will join Clermont, also after the completion of the ABSA Currie Cup competition.

The BBC’s High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg said talks with both players have been ongoing for some time.

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Marcel van der Merwe

Marcel van der Merwe

Vodacom Bulls prop Marcel van der Merwe will miss the opening week of the Vodacom Super Rugby season due to a medial knee ligament injury, it was confirmed on Monday.

The injury occurred on Saturday in London, when the Blue Bulls played against English club side Saracens in a warm-up friendly.

Van der Merwe injured his knee and pulled his hamstring in the second half and will be out for 3 to 4 weeks, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

The Springbok prop was the only casualty in the match and Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke should have a fairly fit squad to pick from for their first match, against the DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on 14 February.

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Ulrich Beyers

Ulrich Beyers

Vodacom Bulls utility back Ulrich Beyers will know in the next few days if he will join the exodus to France after joining Bordeaux on a trial basis.

Beyers, who represented the Blue Bulls in last season’s ABSA Currie Cup semifinal at fullback, didn’t feature in last Saturday’s pre-season opener for the Bulls against the Toyota Cheetahs and isn’t part of the squad that heads Wednesday to London to face Saracens this weekend.

It has emerged that Beyers has been offered a trial with Bordeaux, with the option of a long-term contract if it goes well and could feature in his first start this coming weekend for the club.

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SaracensVodacom Blue BullsFlanker Deon Stegmann will lead the Vodacom Blue Bulls on Saturday when they take on Saracens in a friendly match outside London. The Blue Bulls named their final travelling squad on Wednesday, just before departure to England.

Regular captain Pierre Spies will only play off the bench in his return to first class rugby after more than 12 months on the sidelines; hence the decision to employ Stegmann’s proven leadership skills. The former Springbok flanker captained the Vodacom Blue Bulls with great success in the ABSA Currie Cup competition in the past.

Another former captain, Victor Matfield, will travel to London as part of the coaching team and not as a player and will not be in action over the weekend.

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Bandise Maku

Bandise Maku

The Vodacom Bulls will be without Springbok hooker Bandise Maku for the Vodacom Super Rugby season after he tore his pectoral muscle in Saturday’s opening friendly match against the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane.

Maku will have surgery on 3 February and will be ruled out of action for between four and six months, Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

The Polokwane clash last year saw a season-ending injury to flanker Arno Botha, but the Springbok this time came through the match with only a tight hamstring. He will be able to train on Tuesday, but will not travel to London where the Bulls take on Saracens this weekend.

Akona Ndungane is another who will miss the London trip due to a calf strain. He will be out of action for two weeks. Dean Greyling suffered an ankle sprain and will be out for two weeks at least, Strauss said.

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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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Duncan Matthews

Duncan Matthews

The Bulls overcame a slow start to finish strongly and post a 30-13 triumph over the Cheetahs in a Super Rugby pre-season friendly at Polokwane.

Scrumhalf Piet van Zyl bagged a second half double as the men from Pretoria ran away with the match which was separated by just 3 points midway through the second half.

Duncan Matthews also found the line thanks to a well-timed intercept while Jesse Kriel dictated the game from fullback, looking very much at home in the No 15 jersey.

New recruit, Trevor Nyakane, was a late withdrawal due to a strained neck muscle, but in more positive injury news, Arno Botha completed the match without incident in what was his first appearance since damaging his ACL a year ago.

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Derick Hougaard

Derick Hougaard – Saracens

Derick Hougaard

Derick Hougaard – Blue Bulls

Derick Hougaard will have a foot in both camps next Saturday, as Saracens face South African giants the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Allianz Park.

The fly-half, who played for both Saracens and Sanlam Challenge opponents the Vodacom Blue Bulls, has warned Saracens that their latest South African opponents will pose their greatest threat to their 100% record against South African opposition.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says it’s important for his team to eradicate some “bad habits” as they prepare for this year’s Super Rugby competition.

The Bulls will play two warm-up matches – against the Cheetahs (Polokwane – 24 January) and Saracens (London – 31 January) – before starting their campaign against the DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on 14 February.

“The expectations are big,” Ludeke said. “We made some changes in pre-season an it’s important that we get rid of some bad habits.”

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls have named their team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane on Saturday.

Saracens & the Blue Bulls have also published a Vodacom Blue Bulls squad for the encounter the following week in London.

 

Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane:

New Vodacom Bulls recruits Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane will face their former Toyota Cheetahs teammates in Polokwane on Saturday when the two Vodacom Super Rugby sides clash in a friendly match in the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Flanker Labuschagne and Nyakane, who was selected at loosehead prop, moved north at the start of the season and will be part of the first hit-out of the season for the Pretoria side.

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Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg is enjoying life at his new team after making the move to Johannesburg from the Bulls.

Janse van Rensburg is considered to be one of the top talents coming through the South African rugby ranks. He was recognised as one of the top young centres after showing great pedigree as a schoolboy at Waterkloof, while he also enjoyed a successful run as a junior at the Bulls between 2010 and 2014.

He impressed for the Junior Springboks during last year’s Junior World Championship before injury prematurely ended his tournament.

The 20-year-old now enters a new and exciting chapter in his career has he completed a move from the Bulls to the Lions after the Currie Cup. He hopes to achieve more senior accolades at his new team.

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Morné Mellett

Morné Mellett

Prop Morne Mellett has been cleared of a rib contusion and will be considered for the Vodacom Bulls team to play a season-opening friendly against the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane on Saturday.

The match starts at 17:00.

Mellett’s return will be good news to coach Frans Ludeke, as the Bulls have a number of front rankers out of action.

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