Ruan Combrinck. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
- Ruan Combrinck’s selection at No 15 for this Friday’s meeting with Connacht means the Bulls reach a promised land that many Lions supporters craved when he was at Ellis Park.
- Despite making his mark as a wing, the 31-year-old utility back is popularly thought to be a fullback and Jake White agrees.
- The Bulls mentor is also chuffed with the Springbok experience he has on his bench.
For some Lions supporters, Ruan Combrinck’s selection at fullback for the Bulls’ United Rugby Championship match against Connacht on Friday night is a promised land that was never reached at Ellis Park.
Despite becoming a Springbok in 2016 on the back of his performances as a wing, various observers have held the belief that the 31-year-old would have his bread properly buttered in the No 15 jersey.
Jake White, the Bulls’ director of rugby, agrees.
“It’s probably the game (fullback) that suits him the most,” he said on Thursday.
“The conditions will be all about kicking and territory, especially with the wind. It’s going to be difficult for him at times too, I understand that. But this game isn’t going to be about attack.”
The forecast is a chilly 8 degrees with a decent gust and some rain too, meaning it’s going to be a day where basics will count for more than flamboyance.
“Ruan is really solid. He’s safe under the high ball, kicks with both feet and he’s a Springbok,” said White.
“He’s got a chance to play fullback now. We’ve been lucky to have David Kriel, who’s played the majority of the time I’ve been here, so we need to find another option.
“If this selection comes off, we’ll have another option and the opportunity to further explore different backlines. It’s important for us to see how Ruan fits in.”
Talking of proverbial Canaans, White is also steadily building towards the enviable depth he wants on the bench too.
Following last week’s 3-31 loss to Leinster, he had pointed out that the Irish giants have numerous internationals that don’t even make the starting line-up.
This week, he has two Springboks in veteran Bismarck du Plessis and Embrose Papier.
“We believe their influence will be crucial at the back end of this game,” said White.
“To be fair to Bismarck, I would’ve started him on the bench last week too had it not been the occasion of us playing Leinster in Dublin. It was a good opportunity for him to get on the field and help the youngsters with the pressure.
“He’s there this week for no other reason other than us feeling it’s appropriate to use his experience in the second half.”
It’s also an important outing for Papier, who’s recovered from a foot injury and needs to catch up to Zak Burger for the No 9 position.
“He knows there’s an opportunity here. The Springboks have shown recently that they’re not scared to blood scrumhalves. Embrose has to play to get himself into the pecking order again,” said White.
“I’m looking forward to him playing. The quicker he gets back onto the field, the better.”
Kick-off is at 20:35.
15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Abraham Papali’i, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Ultan Dillane, 4 Oisin Dowling, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Jordan Duggan
Substitutes: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Jack Augnier, 19 Leva Fifita, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Paul Boyle, 23 Sammy Arnold
15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Joe van Zyl, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Stedman Gans