Coach Jake White says trying different combinations in the Vodacom Bulls backline will be crucial when they take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday.
The Bulls beat Griquas 30-23 in their Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked campaign opener. But, while they eventually got the desired result, White’s charges struggled against the plucky Griquas, who put in a phenomenal defensive shift and looked as if they could cause an upset until the final 20 minutes.
In response to that first performance, White has rung the changes in his starting lineup, specifically in the backline making five personnel swaps and two positional switches.
‘I don’t really know all these players, so I’d like to try different combinations. It gives me a chance see them play,’ White explained.
White brought in former Cheetah Clinton Swart to start at inside centre, with Cornal Hendricks shifting to outside centre and Stedman Gans dropping to the bench. When asked if the selection was to counter the threat of Fran Steyn in the Cheetahs midfield, White confirmed as much.
‘I suppose in a way it is, I know what Frans can offer,’ White said. ‘If we give Frans lots of gainline, they’ll play off of him, so in a lot of ways it had an influence on Clinton’s selection.
‘But at the same time I think we can appreciate that we are not going to get away with playing Stedman Gans and Cornal Hendricks every single week. Clinton has trained really well, he comes from Free State and played for the Cheetahs, so he probably knows the stadium well.’
The 56-year-old White also explained the reasons behind his selection of Embrose Papier ahead of Ivan van Zyl at scrumhalf and the inclusion of Jade Stighling in the backline at the expense of Travis Ismaiel.
‘I always said Embrose was going to get game time. It was never a question of him being our No 2. We have two very good halfbacks and it gives me an opportunity to give him game time seeing that he didn’t play that much against Griquas last week.
‘We’ve only had a few games to analyse, but one thing we did notice about the Cheetahs is that they’ve made quite a few linebreaks. We had to get a guy like Jade, who’ve got massive amounts of pace, in our team. And then the other thing is they [Cheetahs] concede lots of linebreaks. We felt one area where we struggled against Griquas was making linebreaks but didn’t finish. So to have a guy like Jade, who is probably one of the quickest in our squad, there is going help us if we do make linebreaks or if we have to counter against their linebreaks.’
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