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
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