Ruan Nortje will lead a Vodacom Bulls side that sees the return of Springbok duo, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie for round 10 of the 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship. The Tshwane outfit will travel down the N1-M1 to the Emirates Airline Park for what promises to be an enthralling spectacle of Rugby if the last meeting was anything to go by. A fortnight ago, the noisy neighbours visited Loftus in what ended up being a six-try thriller to the finish, as the men in blue held their own to take a 2-point victory. That performance by the Jozi side earned praise from the director of rugby, Jake White.

“We must give ‘Cash’ [Ivan van Rooyen] some credit, he has done well with the conditioning of his team, they really get back up well. They are very good at understanding counterattacks because they do it so well. Their wingers are also good at closing their outside so well so we will have to find a new way of getting through them. One thing about them is that they are very good.”


Much is on the line this weekend for both teams. A victory for the Vodacom Bulls would close the gap to the three teams above them on the log standings whilst a four-point win would bring the Emirates Lions back into the top eight of the competition as the race to cement playoff spots intensifies.

White believes the side is playing for more than just solidifying their chances of playoffs but also building momentum in playing well in the later stages of the competitions.

“We are going to have to play well, almost our best rugby like it’s test rugby. The next two weekends are like trial runs for the big knockout games that are coming. We have made one or two tweaks with our changes, not for any other we r reason but to continue learning who can play with whom because we are never going to have the same 23.”


Asked if the Lions were the surprise pick of the season, White said: “They have played well and together for a prolonged period, they have continuity and cohesion. They have managed to keep their squad together and Ivan van Rooyen is a conditioning expert, so he probably knows how to keep his players fresh; the longer you keep a group together, the better they play.”

Asked about the last matchup against the Lions and this trip to Johannesburg: “Sometimes you need those kinds of games (close results) to give the group a wake-up call. We let slip 21 points and there aren’t many teams you can give that amount of points and expect to win, so we will be better.

“The ironic thing is we play really well against them at their ground which is probably better than most in the league. Who knows, this is probably the one game we need on the road. To be fair, we have a few guys who have played there, and this will be like a home game for them.”

The Vodacom Bulls will have a front row comprising Gerhard Steenekamp alongside Johan Grobbelaar and Mornay Smith. Behind them will be a lock combination of Reinhardt Ludwig and captain, Ruan Nortje. Marco van Staden, Elrigh Louw and Cameron Hanekom will complete the forward pack in the third row. Embrose Papier swaps partners at half-back as he pairs up with Jaco van der Walt for round 10 of the competition. Behind them will be Canan Moodie at left wing and Kurt-Lee Arendse on the right side of the park, with David Kriel and Stedman Gans combining at centre. Fresh off his new permanent contract with the herd, Devon Williams will get a run from full-back, giving cover to the side with his versatile left boot.

This weekend’s impact squad will see Akker van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Kloppers, Janko Swanepoel, Marcell Coetzee, Keagan Johannes, Johan Goosen and Mpilo Gumede all on standby to provide fresh legs when duty calls.

Kick-off for the second Jukskei derby of the season is set for 15:00.

EMIRATES LIONS vs VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp (Laerskool Mooirivier), 2. Johan Grobbelaar (Paarl Gymnasium), 3. Mornay Smith (Hoerskool Eldoraigne), 4. Reinhardt Ludwig (Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool), 5. Ruan Nortje (c) (Hoerskool Wonderboom), 6. Marco van Staden (Hoërskool Bekker), 7. Elrigh Louw (Transvalia High School), 8. Cameron Hanekom (Paarl Boys High School), 9. Embrose Papier (Hoerskool Gaasfontein), 10. Jaco van der Walt (Laerskool Randfontein), 11. Canan Moodie (Boland Landbou Laerskool George Suid), 12. David Kriel (Eikestad Primary), 13. Stedman Gans (Laerskool Vredenburg), 14. Kurt-Lee Arendse (Paulus Joubert High School), 15. Devon Williams (Paarl Boys High)

VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Simphiwe Matanzima (Queens College), 17. Akker van der Merwe (Laerskool George Suid), 18. Francois Kloppers (Winterton Primary School), 19. Janko Swanepoel (Gene Louw Primary School), 20. Marcell Coetzee (Suid-Natal Primary), 21. Keagan Johannes (Avondale Primary), Johan Goosen (Grey College), 23. Mpilo Gumede (Durban High School)

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

Cover photo supplied by © Vodacom Bulls