Currie Cup

Gqoboka, Jacobs selections reinforces Jake's plan to marry pedigree and promise

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Lizo Gqoboka (Gallo Images)
Lizo Gqoboka (Gallo Images)
  • The Bulls' selections of Lizo Gqoboka and Stravino Jacobs is another example of Jake White's commitment to combining pedigree with promise.
  • Despite a campaign blighted by injury, the Bulls' director of rugby values the proven class of Gqoboka and had little hesitation starting him ahead of Jacques van Rooyen, who's been a sound performer in his absence.
  • Meanwhile, his willingness to promote youth too is evident in 20-year-old Jacobs' call-up, which is also a sign that it's not just win-at-all-cost at Loftus.

The Bulls' match squad for Saturday's Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions at Loftus is yet another example of Jake White's increased versatility as selector and coach.

Balance has been one of the hallmarks of his early tenure - a careful and potentially successful marriage of pedigree and promise.

It started with his purposeful clean-out and recruitment process during lockdown, where he built a solid core of experienced performers of the likes of Arno Botha and Nizaam Carr, while also signing promising rookies like Schalk Erasmus and Jan-Hendrik Wessels.

Allied with a strong youth system and a handy chunk of current Springboks in Duane Vermeulen, Trevor Nyakane and Marco van Staden, the recipe looked clear.

Yet, as the cliche goes, the proof is in the pudding.

In selecting Lizo Gqoboka - despite only making two appearances in an injury-blighted campaign - vividly showcased that proven class is important to him despite Jacques van Rooyen being an outstanding stand-in.

"To be fair, Lizo is a Springbok, Jacques isn't one," said White.

"He's played many, many times with Trevor. Having worked with the pack along with (scrum guru) Daan Human last week, it just became apparent that the combination is really, really settled. There's just a sense that we needed to pick him.

"He hasn't been with us every single week because of injury, but that's changed and we want him involved."

With Van Rooyen having proven his worth and showing frequently that he can play close to 80 minutes, the arrangement could work out perfectly.

"It's a great luxury having Jacques there. He's hugely experienced and played for the Lions many, many times. He's an asset for us," said White.

On the other end of the spectrum is Stravino Jacobs, who'll be operating on the left wing.

The 20-year-old, who was expected to be a Junior Springbok star last year before the pandemic struck, immediately impressed White in training and was summarily picked for the season-opening Super Fan Saturday jamboree.

He was then sent back to age-group level, where he ended as the Provincial Under-21 Championship's leading try-scorer and has now justifiably graduated to senior level.

"Stravino is a really good player. He carved out an early reputation for himself at school with Paarl Gim," said White.

"He used his opportunity at the Under-21s and did what he's expected to do. He's big and strong, physical when he carries and secure under the high ball."

Even though it appears to be a case of White having enough belief in Jacobs to expose him to the rigours of a knock-out game so early, it's not just this weekend's occasion.

"As I've said before, part of this is not just about Saturday and the following Saturday, but moulding a team for the next few years," said the Bulls' director of rugby.

"He's definitely a youngster, who's exciting and I'm very keen to see how he combines with a few of the more established team-mates around him."

Teams:

Bulls

15 David Kriel, 14 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Lizo Gqoboka

Substitutes: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Jan Uys, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren

Lions

15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Francke Horn, 24 Nathan McBeth, 25 EW Viljoen, 26 Ross Cronje

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