Bulls dent credibility of Champions Cup by picking ‘B team’ for Northampton Saints clash

Kurt-Lee Arendse – Bulls expected to pick 'B team' for Northampton Champions Cup quarter-final
Bulls face a critical Champions Cup quarter-final and key players such as Kurt-Lee Arendse will not feature - Shutterstock/Peter Fitzpatrick

The Bulls will field a weakened side against Northampton Saints in Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup quarter-final, denting the credibility of the competition in the process.

Earlier in the week, reports in South Africa suggested that 10 starters from the 59-19 win over Lyon in the last-16 would not travel with the squad to face Northampton.

And so it was confirmed when, on Friday, the Bulls team was announced with 13 changes.

The group of missing players includes South Africa full-back Willie le Roux and wing Kurt-Lee Arendse. The other players who have not travelled are Canan Moodie, Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier, Elrigh Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Ruan Nortjé, Wilco Louw and Gerhard Steenkamp.

When asked on Thursday whether those players had travelled to the UK, the Bulls would not speak about the team selection but informed Telegraph Sport: “We are currently experiencing a ballooned injury list which has limited player availability.

“We also have made a selection based on medical advice on how some of the injuries would fare after flying for 12-plus hours and how that would have a detrimental effect on their recovery.”

The Bulls are the last remaining South African side in the Champions Cup this season, after the Stormers were knocked out at home by La Rochelle last week.

Head coach Jake White discussed the travel issues facing the Bulls for their quarter-final earlier this week, suggesting the team would have to use eight different airlines to get the squad over to Europe.

His claims were later countered by the South African Rugby Union, who released a statement on Tuesday noting they had spent around £175,000 on business class flights to fly the Bulls players and coaching staff to the UK.

The Bulls face Munster at home in the United Rugby Championship next Saturday, the first of four URC fixtures at home. Should they win against Northampton then the Bulls would have to return to Europe for their semi-final at the beginning of May, to either face Leinster at Croke Park in Dublin or to host La Rochelle at a UK venue which is yet to be confirmed