- Gert Smal says loosehead Simphiwe Matanzima isn't far from staking a claim as a first-team mainstay in the senior URC side.
- Matanzima was near unplayable the last time the Bulls met WP in the Currie Cup in January.
- The 24-year-old is back showing his old promise after losing 15 months of his career to injury.
Bulls Currie Cup coach Gert Smal says loosehead Simphiwe Matanzima isn't far from staking a claim as a first-team mainstay in the senior side, something that his potential and talent dictates he'll become.
Matanzima has built up a head of steam in the Currie Cup side since recovering from career-threatening shoulder and Achilles tendon injuries that kept him out for 15 months.
But the future crown prince of props would need to depose Gerhard Steenekamp, who broke through a year after Matanzima in 2020, at loose-head and overtake his senior contemporary Lizo Gqoboka to stake a claim in Jake White's United Rugby Championship (URC) side.
Smal, however, has no doubt that the 24-year-old from Eastern Cape political royalty (he is Kaiser Matanzima's grandson, the former Transkei president) will make the jump up with more playing opportunities.
"The main thing is to give him enough opportunities to play," said Smal.
"He's an extremely talented player, and it's great to have him in the team with me specifically. We can create a little bit more game time for him.
"He's very close to [being a regular starter at URC level]. I'm very happy with the way I want to use him.
"He's an incredibly good ball-carrier, a hard-working individual, and I think he's very close to the first XV.
"Players are keeping as sharp as possible and pushing for places in the URC team. If he or Lizo needs to go up for the weekend, they will be ready."
Matanzima was on the bench for the Bulls against Ulster last Saturday and brought his usual energy without letting the strong Bulls scrum relent for the final 16 minutes.
On Wednesday, he will start for the Currie Cup side alongside Springbok Bismarck du Plessis and ex-UCT Ikeys tighthead Robert Hunt against Western Province.
Matanzima was the star of the show when the sides met in January in a 40-21 win at the Cape Town Stadium, which also showed Hunt's prowess.
Kick-off at Loftus is at 20:00.
15 James Verity-Amm, 14 David Kriel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn (captain), 9 Keagan Johannes, 8 Muller Uys, 7 WJ Steenkamp, 6 Jaco Labuschagne, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Rynhardt Ludwig, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima
Substitutes: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Sebastian Lombard, 19 Raynard Roets, 20 Werner Gouws, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Juan Mostert, 23 Richard Kriel
15 Tristan Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Cornel Smit, 11 Angelo Davids, 10 Timothy Swiel, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Keke Morabe, 7 Marcel Theunissen, 6 Nama Xaba (captain), 5 Connor Evans, 4 Ben-Jason Dixon, 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 JJ Kotze, 1 Kwenzo Blose
Substitutes: 16 Lukhanyo Vokozela, 17 Leon Lyons, 18 Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, 19 Simon Miller, 20 Jarrod Taylor, 21 Bobby Alexander, 22 Kade Wolhuter, 23 Mnombo Zwelendaba