Loftus to host 2023/24 quarterfinal – opponents yet to be confirmed

 

The Vodacom Bulls’ bonus point nine-try victory over the weekend against Benetton has solidified a Vodacom United Rugby Championship top-four finish for Jake White’s herd with still a round to play. That means Loftus will host the quarterfinal match on the weekend of 07/08 June 2024.

The only question still left to be answered is just where exactly in the top four the Tshwane outfit will finish, with just one more assignment before the knockouts begin. That is a trip down to the coast where the 2023/24 EPCR Challenge Cup finalists, the Hollywoodbets Sharks await in round 18.

Director of Rugby, White says the league is very competitive and has reached an exciting point.

“This year, the worst we can finish is fourth. That means it’s already a quarter-final. That’s an improvement on where we were last year,”

“We are there. There’s this thing of you can’t win the lotto if you don’t have the ticket. We still got a ticket and while you have a lotto ticket, there’s hope.”

He adds: “Are we where I would like us to be? No, if we had beaten Munster, we would be top of the log. That’s the margins of what we sit with. If we won that game with a bonus-point, we would be first or second. That’s how close it is. But there’s no doubt in my mind about the improvement. The players have grown massively over the last year.”

 

 

 

ONE MATCH SWINGS IT ALL, STILL…

Only six teams have confirmed their places in the playoffs leaving four still in the running for the remaining two spots. Three of those teams are level on points with two set to square up in the final round whilst the two sides who have an outside chance face tough opposition who currently are in the top five, as it stands.

The herd (on 61 points) sits in second place on the log, two points behind table toppers, Munster Rugby and a point ahead of the 2023/24 Investec Champions Cup finalists, Leinster Rugby who are level on points with Glasgow Warriors who are fourth. The Stormers (on 54 points) occupy fifth place, one point ahead of Ulster who just confirmed their playoff spot in round 17. Three teams are tied on 49 points in Edinburgh Rugby (seventh), Benetton Rugby (eighth) and the men from the other side of the Jukskei, the Emirates Lions sitting ninth.

Excitement is in the air for the herd, who are looking to better last season’s run and have their eyes set on a massive finish.

“I am very excited about where we are and the four games that we have left – one round robin and three potential knockouts – if it goes according to what the log looks like now, it could go Sharks, Glasgow, Stormers and Leinster,” says the Vodacom Bulls mentor, White.

“I really do believe that we are good enough to beat any of those teams. That is the challenge, to get it right in four consecutive weekends” he concludes.

THERE IS STILL A SHIELD TO PLAY FOR

Whilst a playoff spot is confirmed, the Vodacom Bulls remain in the hunt for the South African Shield which is decided based on the most wins versus domestic teams. The Tshwane outfit leads Cape archenemies, the DHL Stormers by 3 points and nothing short of a win will seal a Shield victory for Jake White and his herd.

White says his side has set their eyes on a Shield win, over and above their overall objective.

“We want to win the conference (Shield) too, it is something we want to do and be the best side in South Africa. We once were the best side for a long time and lost that for the last two seasons but now we are going for the conference (much like the league) because we want to be the top South African side,”

“This is why there is a lot to play for against them (Sharks) but that doesn’t mean they are going to lie down, look at the names in their team. They are in that space where World Cup winners can go and win something else as well and we know South Africans find another gear when they know they can win something.”

White believes his side will go for it as they have proven in previous occasions.

“There is one thing we have done well since I have been here and that is we play well when we want something and the one thing this group of players has done, whenever we get to a knockout game is to do well… We have probably won more than we have lost when we needed to play for a win.”

Grobbies to remain a Bull beyond 2026

The Vodacom Bulls have secured the services of front rower, Johan Grobbelaar for another three years.

Grobbies – as he is affectionately known at Loftus – will continue to apply his trade in the capital until June 2027.

The junior Springbok alumni has notched up 123 club appearances ever since making his debut with the under-19’s back in 2016. A century (103) of those appearances has been in senior competitions as Grobbelaar has grown and evolved into being one of Loftus’ loved and revered players.

The Currie Cup winner says he feels fortunate to be offered the extended stay and looks forward to what promises to be a great couple of seasons ahead for all.

“I am looking forward to the next three years because the extension was an easy decision for me when you look at the talent we have in the squad and the exceptional coaches, management and great sponsors; this is really a great club to be playing rugby at,”

“I have been here for nine years and have had some great experiences and memorable highlights since arriving in 2016. Some great wins, some great tours, winning trophies, a cup here and there but the biggest highlight for me was earlier this year where – for the first time since I arrived – we managed to actually fill up Loftus, having all the support every weekend and the amazing support from our fans.”

He adds: “I do think that we have an incredible squad and a great team here at the Vodacom Bulls. I do think that we do have unfinished business and I really believe that we are closer to winning major trophies and the next couple of seasons are going to be massive and it is going to be great for players, the supporters and the sponsors; so I am looking forward to a great couple of seasons ahead.”

Photo courtesy of ©Vodacom Bulls

Chamberlain joins the Vodacom Bulls

The Vodacom Bulls have acquired the services of utility back Boeta Chamberlain on an initial two-year deal from coastal outfit, the Hollywoodbets Sharks.

The 25-year-old Paarl Boys’ High alumni will call the capital his home until June 2026.

Chamberlain has featured in 51 franchise matches for the Durban-based side, 39 of which have been in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship where he has scored 158 points with 15 of those coming from the three tries the creative midfielder has dotted down.

Director of rugby, Jake White says acquiring versatile players is key to having squad balance. “We have signed Boeta from June this year and his arrival will give us variation and depth. One of the things we want to get to, especially at 10 is to have players who can cover more than one position. When you have a guy, who can play in two different positions – especially on your bench – then you do not have to take your 10 off. This has worked for multiple teams and there is logic to good sides leaving their flyhalf on for as long as possible and your bench can either play at 10 or another position,”

“We are not there yet but we are working on it, to ensure that we have the depth of versatile players at flyhalf that will give us balance to our 23.”

Boeta will arrive at Loftus on July 01.

Petersen to debut for Vodacom Bulls in Parma

Creative backliner Sergeal Petersen has been handed his official club debut in round three of the 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship. The Grey High alumni got a pre-season run against Namibia’s Welwitschias and this weekend will start at wing when the Vodacom Bulls travel to Parma on Saturday 4 November.

Kick off in the North of Italy is set for 15h00pm.

Director of Rugby, Jake White said Petersen’s experience and versatility is an added advantage for the Tshwane outfit.

“We rate Sergeal highly, that is why we brought him into our setup. We know what he offers our squad, and he has a lot more experience that some of our outside backs. He has pace, he is really quick, and he can play at fullback, so I am quiet keen to see how he adapts playing with this back three. He understands fullback play as well so it will be good to have a wing that can play full back and that is something we look forward to having for the coming seasons.”

White has made a number of changes as he rotates his squad to manage player load. Wilco Louw is retained at front row and this week he will have Simphiwe Matanzima (loose-head) and Akker van der Merwe (hooker) serving alongside him at the front. Co-captain Ruan Nortje will pair up with Janko Swanepoel as this week’s lock combination at second row with Marcell Coetzee at blind-side, the ‘Sheriff’ Elrigh Louw at open-side flank and Cameron Hanekom at eight, completing the forwards pack in an unchanged back row.

Zak Burger starts at scrumhalf, combining with flyhalf Johan Goosen as the halfback duo to conduct traffic in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.

Behind the Burger-Goosen partnership will be David Kriel at inside centre alongside Stedman Gans on his outside whilst Devon Williams is retained at fullback. On the wings will be Petersen and Sebastian de Klerk.

The run of new combinations this week sees Johan Grobbelaar slot into the impact squad alongside ‘the bulldog’ Dylan Smith who is set for his first run in blue this season. Mornay Smith, Reinhardt Ludwig, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith and Wandisile Simelane complete the 5-3 split of fresh legs.

Asked about what his side expects at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, White said: “We expect them to score a lot of points, they scored 36 in the opening match and scored 36 in their second too, so they score a lot of tries. We expect a tough game and for them to test our defence really hard,”

“They (Zebre) were in both their opening games till the death. This Zebre side came close against Ulster, and they were in it against Ospreys so we know they will be tough opponents for sure. They were a scrum away from the match against Ulster and they just just lost it against Ospreys, so there are no easy games,”

“Zebre with the make-up of their squad probably have the least number of internationals and that means they have the least amount of disruptions which makes them hard to come up against at the start of a season.”

Posed about how the team manages complacency and whether or not the changes are to manage that, White said: “We lost last week, so complacency is not a worry for us. We know that this is a tough competition and so we want to make sure we have depth in all roles, but complacency is not a concern for us,”

“it will be nice to see Simphiwe (Matanzima) start, it has been a while since he had a start, and he will be alongside Akker (van der Merwe) who is a Springbok and also Wilco (Louw) who is a Springbok. It will be good to see that combination work for us. We also have a new lock combination to try out and it will be nice to see how those 5-lock jumpers work together, so there is a lot of reason,”

“From a coaching point of view, we want to see whether or not we have created competition in each position because we need to play well all the time and we can’t rely on the same players all the time.”

VODACOM BULLS vs ZEBRE STARTING XV:

1. Simphiwe Matanzima, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Janko Swanepoel, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marcell Coetzee (c), 7. Elrigh Louw, 8. Cameron Hanekom, 9. Zak Burger, 10. Johan Goosen, 11. Sergeal Petersen, 12. David Kriel, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sebastian de Klerk, 15. Devon Williams

VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD:

16. Johan Grobbelaar, 17. Dylan Smith, 18. Mornay Smith, 19. Reinhardt Ludwig, 20. Nizaam Carr, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Chris Smith, 23. Wandisile Simelane

MANAGEMENT:

Jake White – Director of Rugby, Chris Rossouw – Assistant Coach, Gary Gold – Assistant Coach, Andries Bekker – Assistant Coach, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr. Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Darryn Berry – Physiotherapist, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, Yusuf Vahed – Sport Scientist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager

Vodacom URC playoffs ticket sales open at Loftus

The Vodacom Bulls on Tuesday opened their ticket sales for their Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoff match against the Cell C Sharks which will be played at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, June 4. The Tshwane-based side confirmed a home quarterfinal spot when they defeated Welsh side, Ospreys, in a crucial encounter in Swansea at the weekend.

The Vodacom URC on Monday confirmed the championship’s playoff schedule, verifying the kickoff time for the South African derby as 13h45 at Loftus Versfeld.

Supporters will now have the opportunity to purchase their tickets for the decisive encounter as sales opened at 08h00 on Tuesday.

The Vodacom Bulls, who have for the past few Vodacom URC matches, have had some of the cheapest tickets to a rugby match. The side has kept their commitment to their faithful supporters by continuing with the sale of tickets from as little as R25 for the match.

Blue Bulls Company CEO, Edgar Rathbone, confirmed the opening of ticket sales: “We have had widespread interest and queries about our sale of tickets for the all-important Vodacom URC quarterfinal against the Cell C Sharks. We are happy to now confirm to our supporters that tickets are now available for purchase for that game scheduled for next week Saturday.

“In our effort to thank our supporters for their backing over the past two years, which have been very hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had slashed our ticket prices to make them some of the most affordable. We remain committed in ensuring that our fans have affordable access to premier rugby, and, as such, we will continue to have our tickets starting at a low cost of R25.

“We are proud of our director of rugby, Jake White, his coaching staff and players for their hard work in getting the Vodacom Bulls to this point. At the start of the season, it would have been hard to imagine that the side would reach this stage. However, the team remained focused, committed and had no doubts regarding the success they could gain and the targets they had set. We wish them well.”

In accordance with government regulations, as per the Government Gazette, stadiums are at this stage permitted to accommodate 50% of their capacity, and this will be the case for the Vodacom URC quarterfinal.

Tickets are available for sale at the Loftus Versfeld ticket office and online at bulls.ticketpro.co.za.

 

WARNING: Fake rugby tickets on circuit

The South African rugby fraternity is cautioning rugby lovers about purchasing fake match-day tickets from fraudulent websites that have no rights to sell any rugby tickets in SA.

SA Rugby, franchises and unions have received numerous queries and complaints recently about dubious websites, such as Viagogo, who have been unlawfully selling tickets for as much as up to 400% of the selling price for the authentic tickets sold on reputable websites or the official ticket offices.

Not only is this fraudulent activity hampering the economic status of the SA rugby fraternity that is still trying to recover from the recent impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is further concern for the swindling of unsuspecting lovers of the game of rugby.

It is advisable that any fans who would like to purchase tickets to do so via the unions’ official channels.

SA RUGBY WOMEN’S PREMIER DIVISION: Blue Bulls Women wary of dangerous Boland Dames

The Blue Bulls Women will be in action this weekend when they take on Boland Dames in an SA Rugby Women’s Premier Division clash at the Boland Stadium in Wellington.

The women from Tshwane have enjoyed a good start to their campaign, claiming three consecutive victories, with the most recent being a 21-13 win over Cell C Sharks Women last weekend, which ensured that they remained unbeaten thus far. The Boland Dames will be looking to bounce back after suffering a 32-15 defeat to defending champions, Border Ladies, in a clash in Mdantsane last Sunday.

The Blue Bulls Women will go into the fixture wary of the dangers posed by the fifth-placed Boland side and will be hoping to improve from the misfortunes from the previous season which saw this weekend’s home side claiming a double, winning both encounters in 2021 – a 23-19 win in Pretoria and a 21-0 victory in Wellington.

The match will kick-off at 13h00 on Saturday.

 The Blue Bulls Women’s team to face Boland Dames is:

STARTERS (15-1):
Nonnie Shongwe, Kirsten Eastes, Daphne Scheepers, Lynn Subke, Elizabeth Jansen van Rensburg, Rumandi Potgieter, Vuyolwethu Vazi, Thandeka Shongwe, Kyla de Vries, Anathi Qolo, Sibonelo Letsela, Zandile Khumalo, Thantaswa Macingwane, Lebogang Ralebona.

IMPACT (16-23):
Tyler-Jane Coleman, Doreen Mkhabela, Thulisile Bukula, Feranah Burger, Nthabiseng Marutla, Mahlatse Nkhumishe, Seshile Maguga, Layla Arrison.  

VODACOM URC: Brutal scrum battle expected against Ospreys in crucial Vodacom URC clash

The Vodacom Bulls expect a tough battle when they face Ospreys in a crucial encounter in Swansea on Friday night. While the South African side will be hoping that a win will put them in a good position for a potential home quarter-final, the Welshmen will also have plenty to play for – to claim the Welsh Shield ahead of rivals, Scarlets, will be a priority.

The Vodacom Bulls, among other areas of play, have pin-pointed the scrums, where Ospreys have proven to be potent, as an area that will be hotly contested, believes the side’s in-form loosehead prop, Gerhard Steenekamp.

“They have a very good pack, and we have done our preparation for what lies ahead,” said the 25-year-old front-rower.

“So, we must just ensure we bring out our best this weekend, and that’s all we can do – to give our best.”

Steenekamp also acknowledged the importance of having former Scarlets and Vodacom Bulls legend, Werner Kruger, as part of the team’s coaching personnel. The retired prop’s knowledge of Welsh rugby and scrums has proven invaluable for the Vodacom Bulls.

“It’s (scrums) one aspect of the game that we’ve really worked hard on, and I think it’s because we have a pack that’s played longer together – so we are also getting our rhythm,” said Steenekamp.

“It really helps a lot having someone like Werner Kruger in our camp. He recently played in Wales, so he knows their mindset. All that insight and knowledge helps, and our scrum is something we have really worked on.”

The match will be played at the Swansea.com Stadium, kicking off at 21h10 (SA time) and it will be televised on SuperSport.

The Vodacom Bulls will later today announce their match-day squad for the encounter.

 

VODACOM URC: Strong 28-man Vodacom Bulls squad for Ospreys clash

A 28-man Vodacom Bulls squad will be preparing for their crucial Vodacom United Rugby Championship against Ospreys in Swansea this week. Although a playoff spot has already been secured, the Tshwane-based side travels to Wales where they will want to put themselves in a good position for a potential home quarter-final spot, depending on permutations of other exciting fixtures this weekend, should they secure a victory in their final round-robin match on Friday night.

Vodacom Bulls director of rugby, Jake White, has selected a strong group for the one-week tour which includes one of the side’s newest recruits, Ruan Vermaak, who joined the side late last week from Japanese team, NTT Red Hurricanes.

“We have an important tour where we will face a dangerous Ospreys team in their own backyard. We are at a crucial stage of the competition – the business end of the round-robin stages and on the verge of the playoffs, with plenty to play for in terms of securing home quarter-final spots,” said White.

“Be that as it may, the focus is on playing well as a group this week and to start building good momentum going into the playoffs.”

The match will be played at the Swansea.com (Liberty) Stadium, kicking off at 21h10 on Friday.

The Vodacom Bulls 28-man touring squad is:

FORWARDS (16):
Arno Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Cyle Brink, Dylan Smith, Elrigh Louw, Gerhard Steenekamp, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Janko Swanepoel, Johan Grobbelaar, Marcell Coetzee (CAPT), Mornay Smith, Robert Hunt, Ruan Nortje, Ruan Vermaak, Simphiwe Matanzima, Walt Steenkamp.

BACKS (12):
Canan Moodie, Chris Smith, Cornal Hendricks, David Kriel, Embrose Papier, Harold Vorster, Juan Mostert, Keagan Johannes, Madosh Tambwe, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Stedman Gans, Zak Burger

Vodacom Bulls secure star Springbok S’busiso Nkosi!

The Vodacom Bulls confirmed yesterday that they have made a key inclusion to their player resource with the signing of Springbok winger, S’busiso Nkosi. The 2019 World Cup-winning star is set to join the side from Tshwane-based side from July 1, where he will be set to make a positive contribution to the team when they kick-off their second season in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship which will begin in the second half of the year.

“We are obviously delighted to have a player of Sbu Nkosi’s calibre joining our ranks at the Vodacom Bulls,” said Vodacom Bulls director of rugby, Jake White.

“He is a proven quality player who is respected internationally based on his track record for the Cell C Sharks and on the international stage for the Springboks. To be able to secure the services of a World Cup-winning player will be a big boost for us. We are confident that we have plenty to gain from Nkosi where he will contribute alongside some of our senior players and also be able to impart his knowledge and experience onto our young talent, whom I am convinced will be eager to learn from him.”

The 26-year-old Nkosi was born in the Mpumalanga town of Barberton and completed his schooling at Jeppe High School for Boys.

In 2016 the elusive winger was part of the Junior Springbok team that finished fourth at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Manchester, England. He then went on to represent the Cell C Sharks, making over 60 appearances for the coastal side before signing for the Vodacom Bulls.

Nkosi has represented the Springboks since 2018, earning a total of 16 caps so far.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Vodacom Bulls, where I will play alongside some of the most exciting talent in the country while working under some of the globally respected coaches,” responded Nkosi.

“I have had some of my best years at the Cell C Sharks where I also became a Springbok. I think I have served my time and contributed what I could at the franchise. I am most grateful to the Cell C Sharks – the coaches, players and staff – for some of the most memorable years in Durban and the support given to me. Of course, the fans have always been a big part of my career. Without their support I would never have enjoyed my time over the years as I have done.

“I now have an opportunity for a fresh start in Tshwane, where I hope to make a positive impact and give my best in the effort to assist the Vodacom Bulls remaining a force in South African rugby and also becoming one of the top rugby sides globally.”

Nkosi will join the Vodacom Bulls at the conclusion of the current Vodacom United Rugby Championship season and will officially become part of the team on July 1.