The Vodacom Bulls secured a gem when they signed talented utility back, Wandisile Simelane, as part of their arsenal going into the 2022/23 season.
The 24-year-old, who seamlessly shows his versatility at centre, wing and fullback, has slotted in like a hand to a glove at Loftus Versfeld since joining the Tshwane-based side in their pre-season preparations.
Apart from the warm welcome and the wit of new teammates Cornal Hendricks and Morne Steyn which has stuck out for Simelane, it is the work ethic and high standards that the team has set that has impressed the former Junior Bok star in his few weeks at Loftus.
“It’s been an awesome start for me at the Vodacom Bulls. The guys have really welcomed and embraced me into the team,” reflected Simelane.
“We are all working hard, challenging each other – it’s really refreshing to witness. Andre [Volsteedt, Vodacom Bulls strength and conditioning coach] has been pushing us really hard and we have no doubt that the results will only be positive once we get into the swing of things in-season.”
“Wandi”, as he is affectionately known, is no stranger to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and Carling Currie Cup where he has produced some stellar performances for his former team, the Emirates Lions.
With the excitement of playing in these two competitions, he expressed his eagerness to contribute towards the Vodacom Bulls’ cause and further make an impact in the upcoming inaugural participation in the Heineken Champions Cup.
“I’ve found the Vodacom URC to be quite challenging. It is a different challenge to Vodacom Super Rugby which we were used to. In addition to the different styles of rugby, there is also the cold weather to contend with in the North,” he said.
“We are now also looking forward to playing in the Heineken Champions Cup, which will bring its own new challenges. We are just excited to play top opposition.
“I really can’t tell you how we as a group are excited about the upcoming season. There is also a comforting sense of calmness and confidence in the team which makes it more exciting for me to play with this group of players and play for our coaches to see how far we can go in all competitions.
“I think we would be under-valuing ourselves if our goal was not to win everything – the Vodacom URC, Heineken Champions Cup and Carling Currie Cup. We certainly have the drive, commitment and belief that we can be competitive in all.”
A highlight for Simelane in his move across the Jukskei River is the opportunity to work with a mentor he has long admired – Vodacom Bulls director of rugby, Jake White.
“Coach Jake is widely respected given all that he has achieved as a world-class coach. So, I have no doubts that there is so much knowledge I can gain from a coach of his stature,” said Simelane.
“I did not even think twice when the opportunity to work under him came about. I can only become a better player.”
In addition to focusing on becoming part of the core of the Vodacom Bulls team and contributing to its success, the elusive backline player continues to harbour ambitions of reaching greater heights in his playing career.
“Part of my individual goals is to become a Springbok sooner rather than later. Every rugby player aspires to play for their country, it is no different for me,” he revealed.
“I will strive to do my best in the blue jersey and can only hope that it will be enough to open doors for me to take my career a step further.”
Aki Banned For Eight Weeks
Aki will be unavailable for the westerners’ next five URC games, including the derby clashes with Munster and Leinster, and will also miss at least the first two of Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures.
He will definitely be absent for the Tests against South Africa and Fiji, but could return to face Australia on Saturday, November 19 if he ‘successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme’.
After an act of foul play against Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla, referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed Aki a red card in the 60th minute of the game under law 9.20(a).
The particular law states that a player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.
In his responses to the judicial officer overseeing the disciplinary process (Pamela Woodman from Scotland), Aki had accepted that he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a red card.
She determined that his actions towards Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in his actions.
Ms. Woodman determined that, had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness.
However, she also considered Aki’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the red card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect.
This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s disciplinary rules) in determining that his offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of 10 weeks.
The judicial officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that Aki’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his provincial coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors.
These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks.
Aki’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the judicial officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.
As a result, the Ireland international will be suspended for a period of eight weeks. As previously stated, should he complete the Coaching Intervention programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.
Fixtures Bundee Aki is unavailable for:
Vodacom Bulls v Connacht, September 30, BKT URC
Connacht v Munster, October 7, BKT URC
Connacht v Leinster, October 14, BKT URC
Connacht v Scarlets, October 21, BKT URC
Ospreys v Connacht, October 29, BKT URC
Ireland v South Africa, November 5, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Fiji, November 12, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Australia, November 19, Autumn Nations Series (substituted if the player successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme)
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Live-wire Vodacom Bulls-Boks back to take on Connacht
As the rugby world braces itself for the third round of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, the Vodacom Bulls get set to host a hungry Connacht team at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.
The hosts have made six changes to the team that narrowly emerged victorious last weekend against Edinburgh. Vodacom Bulls fans will be treated by the return of inform Springboks, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Sbu Nkosi. Arendse and Moodie, both of whom quickly became fan favorites at Loftus with their electric pace and insane steps, will be high on confidence after both made their Springbok debuts in the last few weeks, scoring three tries collectively. While Nkosi, no stranger to the Green and Gold but only having made one appearance for the Bulls thus far, will also be looking to win over the Loftus faithful.
Cornal Hendricks will partner David Kriel in the midfield, while Johan Goosen gets his first start in the ten jersey since returning from a long term injury that kept him out of the game for eleven months. The ever-industrious and busy Zac Burger retains his spot at scrumhalf.
The loose-trio gets a little shuffle as Marco van Staden starts at seven with Ruan Vermaak dropping out for this game and joining the Vodacom Bulls XV that face the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. Captain Marcell Coetzee continues doing what he does best in the six jersey, with returning Springbok, Elrigh Louw, remaining in his ‘happy-place’ with the number eight on his back. Ruan Nortje and Walt Steenkamp have formed a formidable pairing in the engine room over the last season, and will continue their dominance for this game.
Francois Klopper earns a well-deserved start at tighthead, as Mornay Smith drops to the bench, with Johan Grobbelaar and Gerhard Steenekamp at hooker and loosehead respectively.
Jake White, BBCo Director of Rugby, is looking forward to the return of the Bulls-Boks, “It’s always nice having Springboks come back, especially when they are looking as good as Canan and Kurt-Lee. Sbu didn’t get a run out for the Boks but his confidence will still be high having been part of the group. I have no doubt that he is raring to go, and this is his chance.”
“Connacht is a dangerous team. We saw that in the last competition when they gave us a good smack in Galway. A lot has changed since then, and we know what we have to do this weekend.”
The game kicks off at 18h30, on Friday 30 September.
15 Kurt-Lee Arendse; 14 Canan Moodie; 13 Cornal Hendricks; 12 David Kriel; 11 Sbu Nkosi; 10 Johan Goosen; 9 Zak Burger; 8 Elrigh Louw; 7 Marco van Staden; 6 Marcel Coetzee; 5 Ruan Nortje; 4 Walt Steenkamp; 3 Francois Klopper; 2 Johan Grobbelaar; 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels; 17 Simphiwe Matanzima; 18 Mornay Smith; 19 Janko Swanepoel; 20 Reinhardt Ludwig; 21 Embrose Papier; 22 Chris Smith; 23 Lionel Mapoe
POINTS OF INTEREST:
- Vodacom Bulls have lost just one of their last eight Vodacom United Rugby Championship matches, last season’s final to the DHL Stormers in Cape Town.
- Vodacom Bulls have won their last eight fixtures at Loftus Versfeld in the VURC since losing there 22-29 to the Cell C Sharks on 12 February.
- Vodacom Bulls have won their last three matches against Irish provinces since today opponents, Connacht, beat them 34-7 in Galway on 1 October 2021.
- Connacht’s only win in their last four BKT United Rugby Championship matches was 22-20 at home to Zebre on 1 May.
- The Irishmen have not won away from home since beating Emirates Lions in Johannesburg in April.
- Connacht have lost their last two matches against South African opponents whilst their record in South Africa is, won four, lost three.
- The two sides have met just once before with Connacht running out victors twelve months ago.
Vodacom Bulls XV to face Toyota Cheetahs
An exciting Vodacom Bulls XV, boasting a mix of Springbok experience and youthful exuberance, will make the long trip to Bloemfontein to take on the Toyota Cheetahs in the Toyota Challenge on Friday 29 September (a trip obviously made in the comfort of our Isuzus ).
The team that will be coached by Gert Smal, will be led by seasoned Springbok veterans Morne Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis as captain and deputy respectively.
Wandisile Simelane, who recently joined the Vodacom Bulls from across the Jukskei, starts in the fullback position where he will be looking to assert himself in his newfound position. The outside backs will be completed by the dangerous combination of Izzy Novuka and Stravino Jacobs. The latter having scored a sensational try last weekend against Edinburgh in the VURC.
Hard running Muller Uys will pack down at No8 with Phumzile Maqondwana and Raynhard Mouton flanking down on along either side of him. Bismarck du Plessis will anchor the scrum at hooker, with experienced campaigners in Jacques van Rooyen and Dylan Smith propping it up.
Smal is also rewarding Wiehan Bezuidenhout and Juan van der Westhuizen with opportunities after sterling performances in the Carlton Cup. Carlton Cup winning coaches Riaan Brandt and Christo Bezuidenhout from Centurion RC have also been invited to join the coaching team for this outing.
“We’re excited about the challenge, as it will give our structures and depth a real test. It’s a going to be a busy season ahead with a few competitions overlapping, so managing 2 games this Friday will give us a good indication of what to expect.” – Jake White, Director of Rugby, Blue Bulls Company
The game kicks off at 16h15, on Friday 30 September.
15 Wandisile Simelane; 14 Izzy Novuka; 13 Marco Jansen van Vuuren; 12 Chris Smit; 11 Stravino Jacobs; 10 Morne Steyn (Captain); 9 Bernard van der Linde; 8 Muller Uys; 7 Phumzile Maqondwana; 6 Raynhard Mouton; 5 Ruan Vermaak; 4 Merwe Olivier; 3 Jacques van Rooyen; 2 Bismarck du Plessis; 1 Dylan Smith
16 Joe van Zyl; 17 Wiehan Bezuidenhout; 18 Mhleli Dlamini; 19 Juan van der Westhuizen; 20 Abulele Ndabambi; 21 Keagan Johannes; 22 Juan Mostert; 23 FC du Plessis
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