Once there was a Bulls lock (well, actually a Griquas lock) called Victor Matfield and he was considered good enough to be picked for the Springboks. Shortly after that, another Bulls lock (actually originally from Newcastle, via the Valke) was also picked for the Boks.
Thing got a little murky after that, but over the last few years, an established trend seems to have emerged. Young second rowers from all over the country go to Pretoria and are picked for the Boks not long afterwards. The latest beneficiary of this magical success formula is young Flip van der Merwe, a product of the Free State who has been summoned to New Zealand as a replacement for the one from Newcastle, who keeps getting himself suspended. This leaves the Bulls without all four of their first-choice locks, while their fifth choice (Juandre Kruger) is injured and this unavailable to face the Sharks this weekend.
The Bulls have also, in recent times, lost the services of other useful second-rowers in Francois van Schouwenberg, Adriaan Fondse and Cliff Milton.
Their team names for this weekend’s clash contains a relatively weak second row, including Wilhelm Steenkamp (who ironically was released by the Bulls during the Super 14 to play for the Sharks on loan – a sure indication that he has fallen down the Pretoria pecking order), weed-lover Fudge Mabetha and the unknown young Bêrend Botha. We’re reliably informed that the last-named is no relation to the one from Newcastle.
Now the ironic thing here is not that the Bulls are missing 5 locks; it’s more the fact that nobody, anywhere in the rugby world, is referring to a crisis of any sort. Their depth will see them through, of course, because they have a world class system and unmatched depth, etc etc. That’s what the papers will say. Cast your mind back, however, to just a few months ago, when both Gerhard Mostert and Johann Muller were injured in the Super 14 and suddenly there was a “lock crisis” in the Sharks tank. At the time, I recall pointing out that the Sharks had something like 5 locks in their system who had all played for the Baby Boks and were just waiting to take the step up. Then again, perhaps the real difference here is that the Bulls have established a precedent for backing their youngsters to deliver, while the Sharks buy in has-beens instead…
That said, I’m pretty glad that the Sharks are going to field a second-row unit this weekend that, at least on paper, should be far better than the one from Pretoria.
Blue Bulls team: 15 Jaco van der Westhuyzen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Stephan Dippenaar, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 John Mametsa, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Derick Kuün, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Fudge Mabeta, 4 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha (c), 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Bees Roux, 18 Bêrend Botha, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Danie Faasen, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Hayden Groepes.
* Please note that the multiple exclamation marks in the title are meant to be ironic… you knew that, right?Tweet