Coetzee absence no problem for boosted Bulls

The Vodacom Bulls will rely on their depth in the back row as they return to Vodacom United Rugby Championship duty without Japan-bound captain Marcell Coetzee. DYLAN JACK reports.

The Bulls are back in action on Saturday afternoon against Ospreys in Pretoria, having left off with a morale-boosting 40-27 victory over the Sharks on 30 October.

BY THE NUMBERS: Bulls vs Ospreys

However, Jake White’s team will resume the competition without the services of Coetzee, who has been joined in Japan by experienced lock Walt Steenkamp.

Despite this, forwards coach Russell Winter was optimistic as the Bulls welcomed back the likes of Elrigh Louw and Ruan Nortje from international duty.

“Everyone that has been made available to us is back. That includes Elrigh Louw, Simphiwe Matanzima, Mornay Smith and Ruan Nortje. We are trying to manage their workload, but we are almost at full strength in our squad,” Winter said on Tuesday.

“Marcell stood out every single week for us. He is someone we will miss. Saying that we have Cyle Brink coming back from injury, WJ Steenkamp has put his hand up and we can’t wait to give others like Phumzile Maqondwana a go.

“We have got great depth in our loose forwards. These guys are more than capable of doing the job for us.”

BY THE NUMBERS: Stormers vs Ospreys

Winter was also delighted by the return of hooker Johan Grobbelaar and veteran prop Lizo Gqoboka, who could be back on the field in the next couple of weeks.

“Grobbies is fit again, but he might need one more week before he plays,” said Winter. “The depth we have at hooker is unbelievable. For the first time in a long time, we have real consistency in the front row. Lizo is maybe one week away from full fitness. We have nice depth at tighthead prop now. That’s really helpful for our preparations.”

Up against the Ospreys, the Vodacom Bulls are facing a side that has won just one of their sevens fixtures this season, but Winter was still keen to keep the players on their guard.

“Wales are a proud rugby nation. They will be hurting. We have to take them seriously. When teams and players of their standard go through these scenarios, eventually something clicks. When that happens, they will play some good rugby.

“Ospreys are a difficult team to beat. They are well-coached and a proud rugby club. If you take them lightly, you will get burnt. This is a team that can play really exciting rugby.”

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Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

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