Potgieter set to captain Blue Bulls
With 10 players at the Springboks, flanker Dewald Potgieter is set to lead a young Vodacom Blue Bulls side into their Absa Currie Cup campaign this season, with their task starting with a tough outing against giant-killers Griquas on Friday night at Loftus Versfeld.
Potgieter, who is also a columnist for supersport.com, is set to be announced as the captain when the team is chosen for the match, and will play an integral role in the team’s success this year.
But those who thought the Bulls had a young outfit in Super Rugby will see that this group is similarly youthful, with the next generation of players likely to get their start to stake a claim ahead of next year’s Super Rugby series.
Potigeter and fellow flanker Deon Stegmann, alongside Werner Kruger, are the most experienced players in a pack that will feature the likes of young Cornell Hess at lock and former SA under-20 captain Arno Botha.
But it is at the back where the youngsters will really be tested, with Louis Fouche, Francois Venter, Sampie Mastriet, Ulrich Beyers and Jurgen Visser taking their places in a Currie Cup without a host of Boks.
The Bulls are without midfielder Johann Sadie and hooker Bongi Mbonambi, both of whom are injured and will miss the first week of action, while Bok winger Bjorn Basson still has a few weeks to run before he can return to the field.
While Potgieter is the clear favourite, Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar wasn’t revealing too much before the announcement.
“Dewald and Wilhelm (Steenkamp) are two players with excellent leadership qualities, as are Arno Botha, CJ Stander and Francois Venter,” Pienaar said in listing his candidates.
But while the captaincy is an issue that will be settled today, the Bulls know they will be up against it this season as they have a very young side heading into the competition, and depth is limited with just 30 players in their Currie Cup squad at the moment.
However, the young side came from behind to beat the Lions 27-26 through a conversion after the hooter from Lionel Cronje last Friday, with the Lions fielding a very strong team.
“We weren’t that worried about the scoreline,” Pienaar explains. “The game was more to give the young guys a chance to prove they can make the step up and to test out combinations. But the fighting spirit was something that was nice to see. The players played until the end and for a player like Lionel, who has been out of the game for six months with injury, to take a kick like that gives you a sense of calm going into the competition.”
Still, many of the youngsters have either not had any competition since losing to Griquas in the semifinals of the Vodacom Cup in May or were warming the bench for the Bulls in Super Rugby, a place where conservative selection saw players like Fouche and Venter not get much game time at all.
Griquas shocked the Bulls in the opening game of the Vodacom Cup and certainly have the arsenal to win at Loftus Versfeld.
“It is going to be a tough game, especially as Griquas have been together now for seven months and get players like Justin Downey and Willie le Roux back from the Cheetahs. They’ve also acquired two former Bulls in Stefan Watermeyer and JP Nel in the midfield, and they have the confidence, having beaten us at Loftus before. It is going to be difficult, but we know what is waiting for us.”
Pienaar is hoping the hunger of the talented youngsters he has will shine through in a Currie Cup that for the Bulls at least, is not one where they will be favourites at all.