United Rugby Championship

Bulls aim to counter Sharks' daunting, Bok-laden backline with a Blitzbok trump card

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Kurt-Lee Arendse is tackled by Yaw Penxe. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
Kurt-Lee Arendse is tackled by Yaw Penxe. (Photo by Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images)
  • Jake White's decision to give Kurt-Lee Arendse a run at fullback against the Sharks is so simple it's almost refreshing.
  • The Blitzboks star is one of the Bulls' more mercurial but potentially high reward attackers and, by moving to No 15, has the space to weave his magic.
  • The man he replaces, David Kriel, is re-deployed in midfield in a move that's similarly intriguing. 

As many rugby supporters, rightly, marvel at the Springbok-laden backline of the Sharks - which includes Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi - the Bulls have invested great attacking hopes in a Blitzboks star, Kurt-Lee Arendse.

The 26-year-old play-maker lines up at fullback in Friday evening's United Rugby Championship derby at King's Park, a position that has been earmarked for him for some time.

Bulls mentor Jake White's reason for that is so simple it's almost thrilling.

"It would be great to see another option for us in the No 15 jersey," said the franchise's director of rugby.

"You want to give a guy like Kurt-Lee space. We all know that the Sharks kick a lot of ball and what I’m thinking is that if they kick poorly and he gets the ball in his hands, he can play like a sevens player. 

"He can counter-attack, and I appreciate the fact that he is very good when he's got some space around him."

'It's something I want to try'

Arendse, who earlier this year put his burgeoning fifteens career on hold to compete for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics, has indeed been one of the more instinctive weapons in a Bulls arsenal that's been hugely effective but more workmanlike.

To unleash his full potential, why not employ him in a spot where he can arguably do the most damage?

"The other thing about fullback is that Kurt-Lee can play on both sides of the field. When he's on the wing, he's probably limited to certain plays going his side, whereas at fullback, we can use him to the left and the right," said White.

"It's something I want to try – I've been wanting to try it for a long time, and I'm looking forward to see how he does."

That doesn't mean David Kriel, the man Arendse replaces, is now left in the cold.

Instead, the imposing 22-year-old - his physical dimensions of 1.94m and 95kg is impressive - shifts to midfield where he'll be tasked, along with the wily Cornal Hendricks, with caging the world-class Am and a former Baby Boks skipper in Jeremy Ward.

"When David was at Province, he played centre a bit as well. He's got an incredible work-rate, and having looked at some of the backs in the URC – especially the top sides like Leinster – a lot of them have big and tall number 13s," said White.

"It's very hard to tackle them, and there's an opportunity for them to offload, and I just think his body shape, his work-rate and what he offers from a skill-set point of view, he can play at 13 as well."

Kick-off is at 19:00.  

Teams:

Sharks

15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Jeandre Labuschagne, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu

Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Werner Kok

Bulls

15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 David Kriel, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Richard Kriel, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Sintu Manjezi, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Harold Vorster

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