Bulls’ Jake White banking on Nizaam Carr’s ‘great skills’ to unlock Cheetahs



Published Jun 16, 2023


Cape Town – It is a real pity that Embrose Papier is out injured, but Blue Bulls coach Jake White is delighted that Springbok No 8 Elrigh Louw has been cleared to feature in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (3pm kickoff).

And not only that, White is hoping that another Bok loose forward in Nizaam Carr can utilise his “great feel and great skills” to be a point of difference on attack and defence for the Pretoria side at the Free State Stadium.

Scrumhalf Papier has been in fine form and played a major role in the Bulls’ turnaround from a disastrous start to the tournament to reaching the semi-finals with his lightning pace and step, as well as a pinpoint kicking game.

But he sustained a hamstring injury in last week’s 31-27 loss to the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld, and has not recovered in time for the playoffs, which sees Keagan Johannes stepping into the No 9 jersey on Saturday.

Johannes has a similar style of play to Papier, though, so White is confident that he can handle the pressure of the occasion alongside flyhalf Chris Smith.

Louw attended a disciplinary hearing this week after receiving a red card from referee AJ Jacobs for a dangerous ruck clean-out against the Cheetahs last Saturday, but that was overturned to a yellow card by the SA Rugby committee, and he has been cleared to play in Bloemfontein.

“Embrose has been playing really well, and he is obviously a loss for us. But saying that, we have been training with Keagan and Bernard (van der Linde, who will be the reserve scrumhalf on the bench) at nine, so they’ve been in the group with our training for a long time now,” White said on Friday after announcing his team.

“So, I would’ve loved to have Embrose, but in coaching, you don’t often ever get the exact team every Saturday.

“It’s wonderful that Elrigh got off. It was such a tough game last week, and to play against Free State with 14 men for 45 minutes took its toll on us as well. So, it’s nice that at least we got him back, because he is important to us.

“When we played Leinster last year in the semi-final, Chris was the 10 in a massive game like that.

“And funnily enough, in our very first URC game last year, Keagan was the nine. So, he’s played against Leinster in the opening round of the URC.

“We’ve had Johan Goosen playing with Embrose Papier, and in training on the other side against them was Keagan and Chris. So, it’s a combination that have trained a lot together, even though they may not have played much together.”

Carr, who normally operates at No 8 and openside flank, has had an immense influence on the Bulls as a blindside flank, and he earned the nod at No 7 ahead of Cyle Brink.

“I just think Nizaam’s played really well. Just that combination seems to be nice and balanced when he’s on the field as well,” White said.

“Then a guy like WJ Steenkamp on the bench can cover six, seven and eight and has got pace. And probably – taking nothing away from Cyle Brink – probably offers us a little bit more at the back-end of a game as opposed to putting Cyle on the bench.

“Cyle has got a lot of starts and is good for us. But I just felt this combination, with Nizaam as an attacking extra, is probably what we need this weekend.

“The Cheetahs are not scared to keep the ball as well, and Nizaam defensively and attacking-wise, he’s a threat. He gets around the field, has a great feel and great skills, and with Elrigh and Marcell (Coetzee), he is a great complement to the two of them.”

Blue Bulls Team

15 Johan Goosen 14 Cornal Hendricks 13 Stedman Gans 12 Harold Vorster 11 David Kriel 10 Chris Smith 9 Keagan Johannes 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Nizaam Carr 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain) 5 Ruan Nortjé 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Mornay Smith 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

Bench: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Francois Klopper 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 WJ Steenkamp 21 Bernard van der Linde 22 Sibongile Novuka 23 Wandisile Simelane.


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