Rainbow Cup

Are the Bulls building their own Pieter-Steph in Ruan Nortje?

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Ruan Nortje. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
Ruan Nortje. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
  • The Bulls might take their first step to developing their own Pieter-Steph du Toit after switching influential lock Ruan Nortje to No 7 for the match against the Sharks.
  • The lanky 22-year-old has many attributes that could make him a very useful option at blindside flank, particularly his line-breaking ability and work ethic.
  • Bulls mentor Jake White believes Nortje being able to cover both positions would serve his career prospects well.

Comparing players isn't an exact science, but the Bulls on Saturday might take the first step to building their own version of Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Jake White, the franchise's director of rugby, has shifted star lock Ruan Nortje to blindside flank for the Rainbow Cup "semi-final" against the Sharks in Durban, a move aimed at maximising his potential worth.

"If we can double him up as a player that can cover lock and loose forward, it makes so much more sense for his career moving forward," said the former Springbok mentor.

"I definitely believe there's a future for him in the No 7 jersey. Look at a guy like Pieter-Steph. He was a lock, now he's moved across to No 7 and he's the best player in the world."

The move represents another interesting twist to what has been a fascinating 12 months for the 22-year-old.

Teams:

Sharks

15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Anthony Volmink, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Khwezi Mona

Substitutes: TBC

Bulls

15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 7 Ruan Nortje, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Gio Aplon

Nortje admitted previously to being a bit anxious during lockdown over whether he'd be part of White's plans following a well-documented player clean-out and a purposeful, successful recruitment drive.

It was believed the lanky, 2m and 113kg exponent lacked the bulk needed to fit into the Bulls' new direction.

But the former Junior Springbok worked hard in the gym and on Loftus' B-field, quickly becoming a key member of White's pack and winning much praise for his work ethic.

And it's that bustling playing style that has the Bulls' brains trust wondering about exploring his suitability to play on the side of the scrum.

"Ruan's a very good lineout forward. We've seen that time and again," said White.

"He has an incredible work rate, people call it an 'engine'. He makes line-breaks and gets around the field brilliantly. It's an exciting challenge for him and I'm sure he'll adapt to it.

"We also felt it was a good time to try this given that he'll be surrounded by two experienced Springboks in Marcell Coetzee and Marco van Staden."

Nortje's move also allows another promising lock who's flourished under White, Janko Swanepoel, to get a starting spot.

"Janko's done really well for us. He won the title with the Under-21s last year and has trained with us for a long time now," said White.

"He knows the lineouts and has been exposed to some pressure situations. He's nice and fresh, having not played as much as the others.

"We're hoping that energy rubs off on the rest."

Kick-off at Kings Park is at 18:15 on Saturday.

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