Vodacom Bulls Favourites To Turn Around Season Against Dragons RFC


Another exciting round lies ahead in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship as the focus now turns to see what Round 12 will have to offer. Friday night lights return to Newport where the Dragons RFC welcomes the Vodacom Bulls at 21:35 (SA Time).

The Dragons RFC have lost their last four United Rugby Championship fixtures since beating Zebre Parma 47-7 at Rodney Parade at the end of October. The Dragons' most recent victory over a South African opponent was 13-10 over the Toyota Cheetahs in Newport in February 2020.

The Vodacom Bulls have slipped to two straight defeats in the United Rugby Championship, against the DHL Stormers and Cell C Sharks. They have not lost three in succession in the Championship since last January. The Vodacom Bulls' only away win since September was 44-22 against Benetton in Treviso on 21 October.

The two sides have met just once before with the Bulls winning 55-20 at Loftus Versfeld in March 2022.

Prediction: Vodacom Bulls by 12.

Dragons RFC's dynamic back row Ollie Griffiths makes his first appearance of the season. Griffiths is named at openside flanker and is one of five changes made by the Men of Gwent as they kick off the home campaign for 2023 in Newport. The other change to the pack is a call-up for Sean Lonsdale, who operates at blindside.

Playmaker Sam Davies is recalled to the starting line-up and combines with Lewis Jones at half-back. Scrum-half Jones will make his 100th appearance in the URC in the fixture. Centre Max Clark comes into the team, with Sio Tomkinson moving to the wing, while the final change is a start at full-back for Jordan Williams.

Argentina international scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou returns among the replacements with prop Lloyd Fairbrother, lock Huw Taylor and fly-half, Will Reed.

Dragons RFC Had Coach Dai Flanagan said: “We’re really looking forward to the challenge of facing the Bulls on home soil.

“Their performances have been good in recent weeks; they will just be disappointed with the outcome of games. They are coming here fully loaded because they need results like we need results.

“They have such talent in their squad. They are physical, they won’t take a step back, so we must match that. You look at their back three too, they can light up if we are not on our game and we don’t manage the game.

“They are made of tough stuff. We know what's coming in and we’ve got to be prepared.

“It's home, it's Friday night in Newport and it’s Rodney Parade. It’s a big test and one we need to meet head-on.”

Vodacom Bulls Director of Rugby, Jake White, recalled Wandisile Simelane into the matchday 23 whilst retain the services of the same squad that did duty in Durban, a week ago.

The front row remains the same, with the only switch taking place between prop’s Gerard Steenekamp and
Simphiwe Matanzima swapping jerseys.

At the back, Zak Burger will don number 9 at scrum-half whilst David Kriel starts at left wing with Canan Moodie on the right, at 14. Harold Vorster will have Wandisile Simelane at 13, the duo pairing up as the centre pairing for the clash. Kurt-Lee Arendse returns to fullback.

The impact squad sees the addition of Bismarck Du Plessis, who comes into the matchday 23 with Jan-Hendrik Wessels missing out due to a niggle. Scrum-half, Embrose Papier returns to the matchday squad with Johan Goosen and Cornal Hendrick.

Vodacom Bulls’ scrum coach, Werner Kruger, said the side wants to play and that desire will not go away, now they just need to manage their games correctly.

“We weren’t our best against the Sharks. We did not execute the plan that we wanted and we were not physical enough, which caused us to be under immense pressure. So, if we can get things right - controlling the controllable, play the conditions right, pitch up with good intent and physicality and then our game drivers take control of the kicking battle and take us into the right areas of the field, then the battle will take care of itself,”

Travelling to Europe during this time of the year makes for a tricky outing but Kruger feels that managing the
game situations correctly, will set the Pretoria outfit up for a good result.

“I think the biggest thing in Europe right now is managing weather conditions, making sure that we win the kicking battle and we take control of the territory and that will obviously put us in the right positions on the pitch; then we must ensure we execute and manage our opportunities the best.”

“With weather like that, you probably will not take chances in your own 22 but when on the right side of the field, with ball in hand, you will want to make good of your chances and you can have a go,”


Dragons RFC: 15. Jordan Williams, 14. Rio Dyer, 13. Steff Hughes (c), 12. Max Clark, 11. Sio Tomkinson, 10. Sam Davies, 9. Lewis Jones, 8. Ross Moriarty, 7. Ollie Griffiths, 6. Sean Lonsdale, 5. George Nott, 4. Joe Davies, 3. Chris Coleman, 2. Bradley Roberts, 1. Aki Seiuli. Replacements: 16. Brodie Coghlan, 17. Rob Evans, 18. Lloyd Fairbrother, 19. Huw Taylor, 20. Taine Basham, 21. Ben Fry, 22. Gonzalo Bertranou, 23. Will Reed.

Vodacom Bulls: 15. Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14. Canan Moodie, 13. Wandisile Simelane, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. David Kriel, 10. Chris Smith, 9. Izak Burger, 8. Elrigh Louw, 7. Cyle Brink, 6. Marco Van Staden, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 4. Ruan Vermaak, 3. Mornay Smith, 2. Johan Grobbelaar, 1. Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Sebastian Lombard, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. Nizaam Carr, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Johan Goosen, 23. Cornal Hendricks.