The Scarlets will have to beware the rising threat of Vodacom Bulls skipper Ruan Nortje when they welcome the visitors from Pretoria to west Wales on Friday evening.
Second row Nortje, who stands 6ft 7ins tall, has won more lineouts than any other player in the BKT URC this season, a total of 64 so far. He’s also demonstrated his skills in the loose by making more passes than any other forward (50), while’s he a definite physical presence, tipping the scales at 17st 11lbs. The 24-year-old is a young man with a real all-round game.
In addition to Nortje’s lineout dominance, the Bulls also possess a mighty scrummaging unit, but it’s not just at set-piece time they prosper. They are also highly effective off turnovers, scoring more tries from that area (11) than any other team. Much of that is down to their jackal-work, which has seen them win the second highest number of penalties in the league (25) over the ball.
The Scarlets are on a great run, having won six of their last seven matches in all competitions, but coach Dwayne Peel is well aware of the challenge posed by a team that beat his side 57-12 ten months ago.
“The Bulls pumped us in Loftus last year is the truth. They go after you with their set-piece, so, first things first, you have to match their physicality. If you allow them to get a head of speed, they will hurt you up front and then they also have the ability to shift the ball and make use of their wheels on the edge,” said the former Wales and Lions scrum-half.
The Scarlets are boosted by the return from suspension of Tongan No 8 Sione Kalamafoni who is the league’s top carrier (150) and has also made the most post-contact metres (128) and the most dominant carry contacts (40).