Revenge Will Be Sweet At Loftus Versveld


The Vodacom Bulls will face Benetton Rugby in a Vodacom United Rugby Championship Round 16 match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday @ 14h00.

It doesn’t take too much to remind Vodacom Bulls fans of their team’s horror showing in Treviso in the final of the Rainbow Cup where they were badly exposed by a Benetton side who hit their straps on the day.

That loss was supposed to be a triumphant march into European rugby but became a rude wake-up call for the Bulls as they were soundly beaten after dominating the South African version of the interim competition.

So you won’t have to go too far to know how seriously the Bulls are taking this game, even though Benetton have struggled to find their form since that day.

The Bulls had a five-game winning run in the URC stunted by a narrow loss to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town but are a different beast at Loftus Versfeld this season, putting two fifty-pointers on Welsh opposition and beating both Munster and Ulster.

The Bulls have won their last six matches at Loftus Versfeld in all competitions since the Sharks beat them there in the Championship on 12 February.

In contrast, Benetton Rugby's only victory in any competition since mid-January was 17-7 at home to Perpignan in the European Challenge Cup on 9 April.

Benetton has not been victorious outside of Italy since a 44-20 win at Stade Francais in the European Challenge Cup in December 2020.

Vodacom Bulls scrumhalf, Embrose Papier, and centre, Cornal Hendricks, are the only changes to the side’s starting XV.

Papier, who has missed out on the action in the previous two matches after sustaining a concussion in the match against the Dragons last month, will return to the team to continue where he left off with his good form while Zak Burger will provide No9 cover from the bench.

The experienced Hendricks will be no stranger in the midfield where he will partner up with Lionel Mapoe as Stedman Gans is roped in as a replacement on the bench.

The match will also provide an opportunity for the Vodacom Bulls’ most recent signing, Dylan Smith, who has arrived in Tshwane early, to make his team and Vodacom URC debut from the bench on Saturday. The talented front-rower will provide cover at tighthead prop.

Another change on the bench will include the return of hooker, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, from injury where he will provide backup for starting hooker, Johan Grobbelaar.

The Vodacom Bulls expect a testing encounter against the visiting team from Italy when they meet this weekend.

“We are expecting a tough match against Benetton this weekend, as we found when we faced them in the final of the Rainbow Cup last year,” said Vodacom Bulls director of rugby, Jake White.

“They are a good side that has had some good wins against strong teams such as the DHL Stormers and Edinburgh, among other wins this season. They will also be full of confidence with a full complement of their international players who were involved when Italy beat Wales not too long ago in the Six Nations.
“We will need to be at our best to counter a dangerous team like Benetton.”

Weather: 15° with 7km/h WSW wind, partly cloudy with 77% humidity with no rain.
Prediction: Vodacom Bulls by 15


Vodacom Bulls: 15. Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14. Canan Moodie, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Cornal Hendricks, 11. Madosh Tambwe, 10. Chris Smith, 9. Embrose Papier, 8. Elrigh Louw, 7. Cyle Brink, 6. Marcell Coetzee (c), 5. Ruan Nortje, 4. Walt Steenkamp, 3. Mornay Smith, 2. Johan Grobbelaar, 1. Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: 16. Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Dylan Smith, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. Arno Botha, 21. Zak Burger, 22. Morne Steyn, 23. Stedman Gans.

Benetton Rugby: 15. Rhyno Smith, 14. Mattia Bellini, 13. Ignacio Brex, 12. Tommaso Menoncello, 11. Monty Ioane, 10. Tomas Albornoz, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage (c), 8. Lorenzo Cannone, 7. Manuel Zuliani, 6. Giovanni Pettinelli, 5. Carl Wegner, 4. Irné Herbst, 3. Simone Ferrari, 2. Corniel Els, 1. Ivan Neme. Replacements: 16. Giacomo Nicotera, 17. Federico Zani, 18. Tiziano Pasquali, 19. Niccolò Cannone, 20. Michele Lamaro, 21. Alessandro Garbisi, 22. Filippo Drago, 23. Edoardo Padovani.