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Friday, February 23, 2024

Devon Williams can’t wait to dance with Bulls’ Springboks

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Should Jake White call on all four of his World Cup Springboks in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against Connacht at Loftus Versfeld?

The answer to that question would normally be a resounding yes, but it is not entirely straightforward for the Pretoria side this weekend to just slot in Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden.

They have played some excellent rugby at times during their four-week tour of Europe, where they beat Zebre and Cardiff, but lost to Ulster and Edinburgh.

They earned 10 log points, and despite dropping down from top spot to seventh after Friday’s 31-23 loss to Edinburgh in Scotland, they have a good rhythm in their backline in particular.

The back three of Devon Williams, Sebastian de Klerk and Sergeal Petersen have operated smoothly on attack in general, while centres Stedman Gans and David Kriel have been superb.

In terms of the returning Bok backs, only Arendse played most of the tournament in France, with Le Roux and Moodie not getting much game time.

But they, along with Van Staden, had a mandatory three-week break for SA-based players, so they only rejoined Bulls training on Monday ahead of the Connacht encounter.

Le Roux is a new signing, so won’t be familiar with how the Bulls systems work, so he may need more time to integrate at Loftus Versfeld.

Perhaps the best option would be to play all four Boks off the bench this weekend before starting them against the Sharks at Loftus on December 2, ahead of the massive Champions Cup clash against Saracens in Pretoria a week later.

What may complicate matters further is that the Bulls are awaiting the results of a test on flyhalf

Johan Goosen, who left the pitch in Edinburgh with concussion, as well as a scan on hooker Johan Grobbelaar’s hamstring injury.

Current starting fullback Devon Williams – who scored the opening try against Edinburgh – is excited to work alongside the World Cup Boks, but is also happy with how the back three are going after the four-week tour of Europe.

“Definitely exciting for the Boks to join. They will bring a different energy to the group,” Williams said yesterday.

“I have known Sergeal for a while, and I have played with Sebastian for a while, so it was an easy combination to slot in.

“It (touring) has improved my game massively.

“The chats were always about the 4G pitch and getting used to that, and that was something I had to get used to.

“And then being away from home for so long is another point, but it was easy to adapt with the guys as they were open to chat about anything. If I didn’t know what was happening, then the guys’ doors are always open, and we have a great family bond here as well.

“I must say that the first game was a bit of an eye-opener, but I’m easily adaptable to the game now – I think I have found my feet.”

Whoever coach Jake White picks in the backline, the Bulls will have serious pace on attack, and Williams hopes the team can also take advantage of the Pretoria summer against Connacht, who beat the Sharks 12-10 in Durban last weekend..

“The heat definitely plays a huge role here. It’s difficult to say (if Connacht will struggle in the heat), as we have looked at clips of their games overseas, and they’ve only played the one game here against the Sharks,” he said.

“But I definitely think they will have something up their sleeve this weekend to change the game in their favour.

“I think it (playing at home) opens up more opportunities to throw the ball around a bit. If we can speed it up with tempo, it will be difficult for them to keep up – especially with the heat and altitude.

“But they might have a trick up their sleeve to slow the game down, and if we can manage the game in that sense, then we will be in the running.”

Kick-off is at 5pm.

@ashfakmohamed

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