EP Elephants Must Not Expect Any Favours

Photo Credit: Speedshots.co.za

The Vodacom Bulls will host an unknown Eastern Province side with a team that is dominated by the next generation of stars at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday 15h15 today.

The match will be the first for both teams in The 2021 Kick-off Pools but the EP Elephants must not expect any favours from the hosts.

Vodacom Bulls Director of Rugby, Jake White, named flank Nizaam Carr as captain and the experienced Springbok will lead not only the team but a forward pack that is bursting at the seams in terms of talent.

Joe van Zyl (hooker) and Gerhard Steenekamp (prop) were used throughout Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked and the Carling Currie Cup while lock forward Janko Swanepoel continues to gain valuable game time.

The only new face amongst the backs is recently signed wing Madosh Tambwe who is set to earn his first match in the blue of the Vodacom Bulls with the halfback pairing Embrose Papier and Chris Smith continuing in their partnership.

The sensational Stravino Jacobs is not ready to hand over his starting role and is expected to be a menace on the wing after an impressive run in the victorious Carling Currie Cup campaign.

The replacements emulate the starting team with Jan-Hendrik Wessels set to add fresh legs in the front row while Raynard Roets and Uzile Tele covering lock and flank respectively.

Keagan Johannes and Diego Appollis will ensure that the attacking flair is unrelenting on match day.

“Upping the players’ game time is central to our approach during our preparation series and our team for Sunday emulates that. These guys have toiled under the hot sun biding their time and their opportunity has now come. We know what they can produce and we are looking forward to how they seize their chances,” said White.

Christopher Hollis (centre) and Luigy van Jaarsveld (No 8) will return to their old stomping ground when Eastern Province travels to Pretoria

The two Elephants will not be the only ones familiar with the Loftus changerooms though as EP head coach, Peter de Villiers, called on several familiar faces in his matchday squad.

Riaan Arends (fullback) has played more than 50 provincial matches for the Valke, SWD and EP, while Inny Radebe (flyhalf) has Vodacom Super Rugby experience under the belt with the Cell C Sharks, and has been handed the captaincy.

Former SA Rugby Sevens Academy sweeper, Luvo Claassen, was named at scrumhalf, having played most of his rugby at flyhalf and fullback.

Amongst the forwards, much is expected of CJ Velleman, with the former Southern Kings flanker arriving in Pretoria with a proven reputation. He will be part of a formidable loose trio alongside Van Jaarsveld and Anele Lungisa. 

It will be the first competitive outing at this level for the EP side and several questions will be asked of the pack. This seems to be anticipated by De Villiers, who named six forwards on the bench, with only Josh Alderman and Keanu Vers covering the backs.

“At this stage, the big strength of this team is its spirit,” De Villiers told a media briefing.

He said the players know they are the “custodians” of the game and can revive rugby in this area, “one of the better areas of rugby in South Africa”.

“They understand what we want to achieve, they understand the pressure they are under and if it goes well on Sunday there will be more support for us,” the 63-year-old said.

“They are clued up to the goals of getting this union back to its rightful place in SA rugby.

“They know they must play for each other, play for the union and play for this region.

“My prediction is that we will have one or two players from EP in the Springbok squad this year.

“That will be my biggest achievement. It is a big opportunity for all of us.”

Vodacom Bulls: 15. Richard Kriel, 14. Madosh Tambwe, 13. Marnus Potgieter, 12. Marco Jansen van Vuren, 11. Stravino Jacobs, 10. Chris Smith, 9. Embrose Papier, 8. WJ Steenkamp, 7. Tim Agaba, 6. Nizaam Carr (C), 5. Janko Swanepoel, 4. Jan Uys, 3. Mornay Smith, 2. Joe van Zyl, 1. Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: 16. Janco Uys, 17. Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 18. Gerhard van der Merwe, 19. Raynard Roets, 20. Uzile Tele, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Jandre Burger, 23. Diego Appollis, 24. Reinhardt Ludwig, 25. Werner Gouws, 26. Dawid Kellerman.

Eastern Province: 15 Riaan Arends, 14 Josiah Twum Boafo, 13 Christopher Hollis, 12 Sherwin Slater, 11 Quetyn Oerson, 10 Inny Radebe (captain), 9 Luvo Claassen, 8 Luigi van Jaarsveld, 7 Anele Lungisa, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 Mncedi Dlwengo, 4 Athenkosi Khetani, 3 Lepumlo Nguca, 2 Robin Stevens, 1 Lyle Lombard. Replacements: 16 Sithembiso Befile, 17 Siya Nzuzo, 18 Emile Klassen, 19 Ronald Sheckle, 20 Arnold Kleyne, 21 Diego Williams, 22 Josh Aldermann, 23 Keanu Vers.