Ruan Nortje v Alun Wyn Jones, Grobbies v Dewi: Bulls' Bok hopefuls get ideal chance to kick on

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Ruan Nortje celebrates with Elrigh Louw. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
Ruan Nortje celebrates with Elrigh Louw. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
  • The Bulls' band of new Springbok hopefuls have an ideal chance to kick on against international opposition in Ospreys on Friday night.
  • Lock Ruan Nortje in particular, will benefit greatly from having to face Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones as his direct opponent.
  • Coach Jake White believes his side is littered with X-factor players capable of helping the Bulls claim a morale-boosting win before the URC play-offs.

They might not be supplying a vast number of current Springboks, but the Bulls are almost certain to provide a steady stream of them post next year's World Cup.

It's therefore unsurprising that the influential trio of hooker Johan Grobbelaar, lock Ruan Nortje and No 8 Elrigh Louw are under the spotlight for Friday night's United Rugby Championship (URC) meeting with Ospreys in Swansea as they take the field for the first time since attending the Springboks' second alignment camp a fortnight ago.

Given the nod they've received that they are part of the national team's future planning as well as the new insights they've gained from spending time in the company of Jacques Nienaber and co, a vital match against Wales' best-placed side in this season's campaign is an appropriate platform for them to show they belong at the highest level.

READ | Why the Bulls are in pole position to best deal with next season's Euro rotation race

For the lanky Nortje, who's earned rave reviews from the second row and comparison with Franco Mostert, a duel with Welsh legend Alun Wyn Jones is a particularly tough assignment.

"A guy like Ruan has grown considerably since I started at the Bulls," said Jake White, the franchise's director of rugby.

"He was really young and now he's played himself into the Boks' alignment camps. Now he has the opportunity to play against the greatest locks of all time. I'm quite keen to see that his growth has come on. 

"That's part of our jobs as coaches, you want to put players like Ruan in those environments."

Nortje might boast the most prominent battle, but Grobbelaar - part of last year's Bok squad for the Rugby Championship - will have his hands full against direct opponent Dewi Lake, who commenced his international career in this year's Six Nations, while Louw faces, among others, an Evan Roos-like figure in Jac Morgan.

The 23-year-old blindsider is the talk of the town in Wales, not only because of an outstanding season but his perceived inexplicable omission from the Dragons' squad for their tour to South Africa in July.

"It will be nice to see Elrigh playing and Grobbies forms part of a front row that has to front up to a talented [all-Wales] opposition combination," said White.

"There's a fair few challenges awaiting our guys and some nice match-ups that we'll definitely be looking at."

While those Bok hopefuls are expected to lay the platform for a morale-boosting potential victory ahead of the knock-outs, White is also investing a lot of faith in some proverbial X-factor exponents on the bench.

One of them, scrumhalf Embrose Papier, is a forgotten Springbok.

Importantly, however, that billing doesn't necessarily mean eye-catching moments of magic.

"X-factor players are all around us in this team. If Elrigh and Cyle [Brink] get space, they'll interplay. A guy like Jan-Hendrik [Wessels] could be a big factor when he comes on, same with a guy like Embrose, who can win you a game in an instant," said White.

"That's what's great about our team. It's also about finding a way to win, whatever form that takes."

Kick-off is at 21:10.        



15 Michael Collins, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 George North, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Rhys Webb (captain), 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Dewi Lake, 1 Gareth Thomas

Substitutes: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Bradley Davies, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Harri Morgan, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Mat Protheroe


15 Canan Moodie, 14 David Kriel, 13 Cornal Hendricks, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Robert Hunt, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Juan Mostert, 23 Stedman Gans

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