Matanzima reflects on year of ‘improvements’

As the year draws to a close, with the Vodacom Bulls having enjoyed the success of back-to-back Carling Currie Cup titles and getting a taste of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, assiduous prop, Simphiwe Matanzima, reflects positively on the year that was.

The 24-year-old loosehead prop proved himself to be an instrumental figure in the Vodacom Bulls team throughout the year with some key performances and establishing himself as one of the players to look out for in South African rugby. This after some struggles with injury in previous seasons.

“It’s nice to be back,” reflected the Eastern Cape-born Matanzima.

“Especially coming into a new system with a winning culture which we have seen this year. I’m enjoying the game again. It feels awesome and I can’t wait to build on that.”

While vying for a spot in a team full of talented front-rowers which include Lizo Gqoboka and Gerhard Steenekamp among his positional competitors, Matanzima has added to the healthy internal team competition.

So impressive was Matanzima this year that he earned a spot in the inaugural Carling Champions Team that took on Kenya at Loftus Versfeld on November 6. An added feather to his cap was the fact that he was appointed captain of the team that emerged as 85-17 victors over the East African nation, proving his capabilities as a leader.

A proven strong scrummager, Matanzima is pleased with the progress his side has been making in the set pieces, especially after having to venture into new territory – playing on unfamiliar 4G pitches on their tour of Europe at the start of the Vodacom URC.

“I don’t think we need to change much in terms of our scrums. Playing in the Northern Hemisphere, with the different interpretations from the refs, was a bit of a challenge in the previous games, and also playing on those 4G pitches and getting used to that.

“We just look forward to big scrum battles going forward. We need to stick to our principles and continue doing what we do best.

“This year we were at the top during the Carling Currie Cup. I think we are all improving as front row and [forwards] coach Russell Winter is doing a good job with us. We are all looking to improve and get better every time.”

Exciting Vodacom Bulls team to face Cell C Sharks

Tighthead prop, Robert Hunt, will earn his first starting berth for the Vodacom Bulls when they take on a strong Cell C Sharks team in a Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday night.

Vodacom Bulls director of rugby, Jake White, announced an exciting 23-man squad that will face a Cell C Sharks team that is loaded with international players in the South African derby, which will be a repeat of the previous two editions of the domestic Carling Currie Cup final.

Hunt, who made his debut and played off the bench on the Vodacom Bulls’ four-week tour of Europe in the opening rounds of the Vodacom URC, will buckle down alongside Gerhard Steenekamp at loosehead prop, with the experienced Bismarck du Plessis starting at hooker.

A few positional switches in the backline will make for an exciting battle against what could potentially be an almost all-Springbok backline for the home side.

Kurt-Lee Arendse will start in the No15 jersey while David Kriel will get an opportunity at outside centre, alongside Cornal Hendricks.

Richard Kriel will earn his Vodacom URC debut when he lines up on the left wing.

The Vodacom Bulls expect a tough encounter in Durban against a dangerous Cell C Sharks outfit.

“This is such a big week. It’s not only a local derby, but the game that we have played in the Carling Currie Cup final twice now,” White said.

“They’ve got all these international players, that says a lot for their squad. At home with that kind of team, there is a little bit of a buzz now. It’s like a test match for us, and we are looking forward to it.

“We are looking forward to seeing where we are. We will see Marcell Coetzee getting a crack to play against Siya (Kolisi), you get Bismarck du Plessis and Grobbies (Johan Grobbelaar) playing against Bongi (Mbonambi), and that list goes on.”

The match will kick off at 19h00 and it will be televised on SuperSport.


The Vodacom Bulls to take on the Cell C Sharks is (15-9; 1-8):

Starting XV: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Madosh Tambwe, David Kriel, Cornal Hendricks, Richard Kriel, Morné Steyn, Embrose Papier; Gerhard Steenekamp, Bismarck du Plessis, Robert Hunt, Walt Steenkamp, Ruan Nortje, Marcell Coetzee (CAPT), Arno Botha, Elrigh Louw.

Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima, Lizo Gqoboka, Jacques du Plessis, Sintu Manjezi, Zak Burger, Chris Smith, Harold Vorster.

Grobbelaar hungry for game time ahead of Vodacom Bulls v Sharks clash

After spending some time with the Springboks, Johan Grobbelaar is itching to get onto the field and continue where he left off at the Vodacom Bulls. The Tshwane-based side continues their Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign when they take on the Cell C Sharks in a South African derby at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday night.

Grobbelaar is yet to get a taste of the Vodacom URC after last turning out for the Vodacom Bulls in the successful Carling Currie Cup campaign before he received a call up to join the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship in Australia.

“It was a great opportunity to be part of the Springboks setup. I was very surprised and excited to get the call up. It was great to see how the system works. But now I’m just looking forward to playing for the Vodacom Bulls and getting some game time,” the 23-year-old hooker said.

Grobbelaar will be vying for a spot in the Vodacom Bulls team that will face the Cell C Sharks on Friday night. He acknowledges the healthy competition within the squad and is aware that he needs to earn his place among equally talented hookers which include Bismarck du Plessis, Schalk Erasmus, Sidney Tobias, and Jan-Hendrik Wessels.

Once the explosive hooker has bagged a few Vodacom URC caps, he will hope that he continues to impress with his performances and ultimately make a return to the national setup and in the process earn some test experience.

“The next step comes with time. For now, one just needs to do what they need to do every week – play good rugby,” said the level-headed Grobbelaar.

“There are a lot of good hookers at the moment. My focus now is to continue playing and doing well for the Vodacom Bulls, then any other opportunity can follow. Just to get some game time and be on the field is very important for now. If I can play consistently week in, week out my chance will come.”

The Vodacom Bulls match against the Cell C Sharks will kick off at 19h00 on Friday.