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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Bulls in selection quandary



The Vodacom Bulls may be leading the South African conference at the moment, but they face a conundrum in selection this week that would test the wisdom of Solomon.

Still buoyed by their impressive play in the 34-0 whitewash of the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth over the weekend, the Bulls face a very different challenge altogether this week as they prepare to take on the resurgent Waratahs in their next Vodacom Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

But given the form of Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht in the midfield, Arno Botha on the flank and the return to action of Bjorn Basson, coach Frans Ludeke will sit with some tough decisions when he selects the team to take on the Waratahs.

While form may be one thing, the danger of Bernard Foley’s attacking runs at 10 and Israel Folau’s injection into the backline may well see the Bulls adopt a different approach against the Australian side.

Serfontein is certainly playing well at the moment, but with Wynand Olivier returning to fitness, there is a decision to be made. Continue with the young prodigy or bring back the seasoned veteran? Both arguments have merit, but it would be a crying shame to drop Serfontein after the way he has performed in the past few weeks.

There is also a bigger picture to look at for the Bulls. In a few weeks’ time Serfontein will be ripped away for SA under-20 duty and head to France for the IRB Junior World Championship, so it may be good to give him as much game time now, and rotate the squad later.

On the outside Engelbrecht has suddenly come to life outside Serfontein, and looks hungry for action. It is no coincidence that the Bulls have looked their most dangerous when they have moved the ball wide and the midfielder has been able to move into the backline with his incisive runs.

But Basson’s second-half cameo brings a poser on what to do with Lionel Mapoe. Both players are in good nick, but Basson is seen as the first choice on the wing, meaning Mapoe would either need to move to 13, or drop to the bench. It is likely, given the aerial skills of Folau and co, that Basson will be back and the latter will happen.

Up front the same questions need to be asked. Arno Botha has been in exceptional form on the flank, and with Dewald Potgieter returning from injury, and factoring in Jacques Potgieter’s cameo late in the second half, the make-up of the loose trio is also likely to be a debating point.

Coach Ludeke has been a stickler for the Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegmann combination, the tried and tested, but it is difficult to ignore Botha’s claims. Likewise, the bearded Potgieter’s impact from the bench can’t be ignored, and as such leaves them in a quandary.

At lock, Flip van der Merwe needs to pass a fitness test to take his place, with Wilhelm Steenkamp likely to move onto the bench. The on-off nature of Francois Hougaard’s injury will also pose an interesting decision whether or not to continue with Jano Vermaak, who has been in exceptional form, or bring the Bok halfback back to his regular spot.

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