Loose forward, Celimpilo ‘Mpilo’ Gumede has been handed his debut for the Vodacom Bulls this weekend when the Tshwane-based franchise visits Cardiff Rugby at Arms Park in Wales. Gumede – a former SA Schools and Junior Bok – will lace up his boots at eight, bringing his explosive game to the pack that is led by an unchanged front row with Nizaam Carr captaining the side in their fourth round 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship outing.

Carr will start at blindside flank whilst Cyle Brink will be on the openside with the duo of Reinhardt Ludwig and Janko Swanepoel completing the second row as the lock pairing. Embrose Papier (scrumhalf) and Chris Smith (flyhalf) will direct traffic flow at halfback with an unchanged backline behind them. Sergeal Petersen who had an impressive debut will be at left wing whilst his energetic counterpart Sebastian de Klerk will be on the right of the park. David Kriel will be hoping to add more tries to his tally from inside centre with Stedman Gans on his outside with Devon Williams at fullback.

Director of Rugby, Jake White has gone with a 6-2 bench split which will see Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp, Mornay Smith, Ruan Nortje, Elrigh Louw and Cameron Hanekom sit on standby for forward pack duty with Keagan Johannes and Johan Goosen the optional backline picks on the waiting list for duty.

This clash in the South of Wales is set for Friday 10 November 2023 with kick off scheduled for 21h35 South African time and will be broadcast LIVE on SuperSport Rugby.

On the changes made to the matchday 23, White remarked: “I’ve got to try something different. We know Marcell (Coetzee) and Elrigh (Louw) play all the time and Cameron (Hanekom) we have seen. Elrigh has played every single game for eighty minutes so the changes give us a chance to see some fresh legs. We signed Mpilo Gumede and Cyle (Brink) played a lot of rugby last year with this team last season and so did Nizaam (Carr) so we are trying new combinations but we do have Cameron and Elrigh on the bench so we could finish with those two as well,”

“To allow players to have rhythm, I’ll look to have some guys a couple of opportunities to get some minutes under their belts, learning the combinations and then look to change with some fresh legs. We are only in game four of the tournament so we have some time to play around but this is a good position to be in where you can have three really good hookers to choose from or other combinations at the back.”

On Gumede making his debut: “I hope we get to see him as we did against Namibia. He was outstanding against them and he looked like the real deal for me. He is a good athlete, he is big and he is a great ball carrier with great feel,”

“I don’t think it is about he plays but how that combination looks. Him, Cyle and Nizaam are nice and balanced with skillset that complement one another,”

“Without putting pressure on him I just want him to do what he did on that game against Namibia. He had a great impact with great presence, and he offers a lot. Tall guy with presence at the back of the line out as well and as I said he has a bit of everything so he must just go out and enjoy the game on Friday.”

On the strong forward-packed impact squad, White remarked: “Look it is something that we have that allows us a different option of forwards and also it might be a game where it is on 4G and on a week three of a tour so it is a bit of a bit of gut feel that we try it and see how it works out for us,”

“Not forgetting that Keagan Johannes who plays at 9, has played 10 before as well and fullback, paired up with a guy like Johan Goosen who has also played centre, fullback and flyhalf so we are probably covered with two backs who can play most positions in the backline.”

Speaking about their opponents this week, the Vodacom Bulls mentor said: “They have a new coach with Dai Young having left but their new head coach has been with the club and knows the players. One thing we do know is that they play on a 4G pitch and they caught us on the tempo of the game the last time we were here and I must say that the opening 20 minutes was very quick so I am sure it will be the same this time around,”

“There could be an element of surprise in that there is a new group of players and new coaches but I do know Welsh rugby and the style of play so I do not think they will go too far away from what they know and which has been part of their DNA for a long time.”

Asked about how conditions may impact the game, White commented: “The conditions do have an impact on the game. If we look at the opening game on tour, we thought we could play with the wind and it didn’t work out quite well for us. In Parma, we played with the wind and that helped us a lot. We will have a look at what the weather is like when we are in the park and see how we use that to our advantage.”

VODACOM BULLS vs CARDIFF RUGBY STARTING XV: 1. Simphiwe Matanzima, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Reinhardt Ludwig, 5. Janko Swanepoel, 6. Nizaam Carr (c), 7. Cyle Brink, 8. Mpilo Gumede, 9. Embrose Papier, 10. Chris Smith, 11. Sergeal Petersen, 12. David Kriel, 13. Stedman Gans, 14. Sebastian de Klerk, 15. Devon Williams

VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Johan Grobbelaar, 17. Gerhard Steenekamp, 18. Mornay Smith, 19. Ruan Nortje, 20. Elrigh Louw, 21. Keagan Johannes, 22. Johan Goosen, 24. Cameron Hanekom

** Hanekom is player 23 but will run out in jersey 24 because of size constraints

MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Chris Rossouw – Assistant Coach, Gary Gold – Assistant Coach, Andries Bekker – Assistant Coach, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr. Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Darryn Berry – Physiotherapist, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, Yusuf Vahed – Sport Scientist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager

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