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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Stegmann leads Bulls' next generation



Springbok flanker Deon Stegmann will lead the next generation of Vodacom Bulls players onto the park in their first pre-season match this weekend as they face the MTN Lions in the Gauteng Cup at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Stegmann is by far the most senior member in a young and talented squad, which also includes Boks Jano Vermaak, Arno Botha and Lionel Mapoe, the latter who will be running out against his old teammates after agreeing to a loan move at the end of last year.

Mapoe of course gets the chance to form an exciting midfield combination with IRB Junior Player of the Year Jan Serfontein, while Serfontein’s SA under-20 teammates Travis Ismaiel, Paul Willemse, Wiaan Liebenberg and Handre Pollard all feature in the match-22.

At the back the Bulls have a lot of speed in Ismaiel and Sevens Bok Sampie Mastriet, while under-21 flyhalf Tiaan Schoeman will guide things after replacing Louis Fouche, who withdrew from the team with a niggling injury.

Grant Hattingh and Willemse, who both played for the Lions last season, will make their debuts for the Super Rugby team, while SA under-20 flank Jacques du Plessis gets a shot to impress from the bench.

Coach Frans Ludeke was happy with the team selected, with the rest of the senior players likely to be in action in the second warm-up game in Polokwane next weekend against a full-strength Cheetahs side.

“There are a lot of players who played in the Currie Cup last year, and showed a lot of promise there. We’ve combined them with some experienced players and we used the Currie Cup to get our depth up. This will be a testing weekend for us and we are keen to see how far we have progressed after the last three months of training,” Ludeke said.

Ludeke said the Lions were a “very exciting team” to watch after seeing their first two games this year, and said although they weren’t playing Super Rugby this year, it didn’t make them any less dangerous this weekend.

“They are very exciting, and they tend to throw the ball around a lot. They are also a lot better prepared upfront and were very competitive in the scrum in their two games,” Ludeke added. “They are a team that like to carry the ball a lot, and they will certainly test our defence this weekend.

For the young Bulls side there certainly is a chance to impress. While the first choice players not playing this weekend are virtually assured of their spots, the competition has shown more than once how many injuries can change a season for a team.

A good performance on Saturday will go a long way to catching the attention of the coaching staff.

VODACON BLUE BULLS: Jürgen Visser, Travis Ismaiel, Lionel Mapoe, Jan Serfontein, Sampie Mastriet, Tiaan Schoeman, Jano Vermaak (v/c), Arno Botha, Jean Cook, Deon Stegmann ©, Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse, Frik Kirsten, Willie Wepener, Juan Schoeman.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Hencus van Wyk, Wiaan Liebenberg, Cornell Hess, Ruan Snyman, Handrè Pollard, Ulrich Beyers, Jacques du Plessis.

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