Serfontein to start for Bulls
IRB Junior Rugby Player of the Year Jan Serfontein will finally get his run-on debut for the Vodacom Bulls after being selected for their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.
Serfontein, who is seen as one of the future stars of South African rugby, has made two appearances off the bench thus far and has been more than impressive, forcing coach Frans Ludeke to finally start the youngster this weekend.
He replaces Francois Venter, who drops to the bench after flying in a week ago and surprisingly starting against the Reds.
Serfontein’s promise has been clear to see for all, but the worry of exposing him to top flight rugby too soon has been something that has plagued the Bulls management team.
Still, they have kept their promise to start him on tour, with tough opposition in the tournament leaders this weekend.
The equation for the Bulls is simple – they have always said a minimum of two wins is vital on tour if you are going to make a run for a home playoff place, and with just one victory on their tour this year, they will be keen to add another this weekend to achieve their goal.
Still, there were some raised eyebrows at the team chosen, especially at JJ Engelbrecht’s continued role at outside centre, and Lionel Mapoe’s at wing and not in the midfield. Morne Steyn returns to the flyhalf role after an indifferent performance by Louis Fouche last week, while Bjorn Basson’s continuing troubles with his ankle has meant he has returned to South Africa and Jurgen Visser will take over the left wing role.
Up front the threat of Wallaby legend George Smith means that Deon Stegmann will start, despite being ruled out by the medical team earlier in the week.
Stegmann can gladly accept the nickname of “Lazarus” after team doctor Org Strauss confirmed he would be out for between five and ten days because of injury, only to have coach Ludeke contradict that on the team announcement teleconference saying “Stegmann was always in the frame for selection and was never injured”.
Whether or not the Bulls are risking Stegmann waits to be seen, but it wouldn’t be the smartest move considering the intensity and length of the season that awaits them.
If Stegmann does go off, then Arno Botha will get onto the field and Dewald Potgieter will take over the role of fetcher.
But even that is overshadowed by Serfontein’s elevation to the starting line-up, which has been a long time coming.
“We have some depth at centre, but we’re confident that Jan and JJ will do a job for us,” Ludeke said about the selection.
The Bulls know all too well how dangerous the Brumbies can be, but will have taken note of the way the Stormers fronted up against them in Cape Town last week.
The Brumbies will be a stronger side though, with fullback Jesse Mogg and halfback Nick White set to return to their line-up for the match.
Vodacom Bulls team: Zane Kirchner, Lionel Mapoe, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Jurgen Visser, Morne Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (capt), Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandre Kruger, Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morne Mellett.
Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Arno Botha, Ruan Snyman, Louis Fouche, Francois Venter.