United Rugby Championship

Lizo Gqoboka speedily makes switch to fill Bulls' Trevor Nyakane chasm ... and fulfils a wish

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Lizo Gqoboka. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Gallo Images)
Lizo Gqoboka. (Photo by Brendan Moran/Gallo Images)
  • Lizo Gqoboka's switch to tighthead for the Bulls in Friday's URC meeting with the Sharks is actually a longstanding wish of the Springbok prop.
  • The 31-year-old started his career in the No 3 jersey and provides much-needed proven class to the position following Trevor Nyakane's departure for France.
  • Bulls mentor Jake White is more than comfortable with this plan as he believes his loosehead stocks are sufficient.

Lizo Gqoboka has purposefully gunned for a spot in the Bulls' game of musical chairs at tighthead following his national team-mate Trevor Nyakane's departure to France.

And, by all accounts, Jake White was more than happy for him to grab a seat.

The 31-year-old prop was one of the Bulls mentor's more eye-catching selections for Friday evening's United Rugby Championship derby against the Sharks in Durban, where he'll be the designated replacement at tighthead.

"Lizo is a tighthead who's used to playing loosehead," White said on Thursday after announcing his match-23.

"Or is he a loosehead who used to play tighthead? I'm not sure it matters. The point is, when Trevor made his positional switch (from No 1 to No 3) it was perfect for the Springboks. It's not an experiment at all."

READ | Jake hints SA teams might have to start 2022 with derbies to allow URC Covid chaos to settle

The thought process here is clear: the Bulls could butter their bread properly by employing Gqoboka as a longer-term replacement for Nyakane.

While the franchise is in the process of tying up "one or two" candidates to add depth to the position, the Bulls actually lack so-called star power in the No 3 jersey.

A year ago, White boasted Nyakane and Marcel van der Merwe; now the reliable and underrated Jacques van Rooyen is the only substantially experienced tighthead in the group.

Gqoboka, a late bloomer who started in the position at Eastern Province, does a lot to change that dynamic for the good while still being able to compete at loosehead where he became an international.

"We've been working with him at tighthead for a long time now because Lizo wants to go back to tighthead," said White.

"We have developed good depth in the No 1 jersey with Simphiwe Matanzima, Gerhard Steenekamp and, previously, Jan-Hendrik Wessels.

"At junior level we have Tielman Nieuwoudt who was a great schoolboy player and is part of the SA Rugby Academy. We're comfortable at loosehead and we told Lizo we want to play him at tighthead and this is his opportunity.

"He would've come in at No 3 this week anyway."

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 (captain), 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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