United Rugby Championship: Lionel Mapoe keen to get stuck into Sharks’ Springbok centres

Bulls outside centre Lionel Mapoe is relishing going up against the Sharks’ midfield duo of Lukhanyo Am and Rohan Janse van Rensburg when the teams meet in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship (URC) encounter in Durban.

Am and Janse van Rensburg combined brilliantly when the Sharks cruised a 37-10 victory over the Lions in Johannesburg last weekend, and Mapoe expects a tough duel against his fellow Springboks.

World class opponents

“They pose a different challenge, and I’m looking forward to playing against them. They’re some of the best centres in the world,” he said.

“We know that they are going to be physical and that they can also play with a bit of flair. There are both of those aspects, and it’s going to be tough.

“We thought the Stormers was going to be tough, but this weekend in a sense, is going to be even more physical.”

The reference to the Stormers comes after the Bulls suffered a 37-27 defeat to their arch-rivals in Cape Town last Friday.

The build-up to that match was dominated by the Pretoria-based outfit’s director of rugby Jake White‘s decision to rest his first-choice players for two Champions Cup matches against Lyon and Exeter Chiefs.

Mapoe, who was amongst those rested players, said the Bulls players supported White’s selection rotation policy.

“It worked really well for me because you get the rest you need, and it’s still a long competition,” he said.

“They’re trying to manage us to get the best out for the team, and we are buying into the coach’s plan.”

In the defeat to the Stormers, the Bulls conceded three tries in five minutes, and Mapoe said they worked hard to ensure that such lapses in concentration do not happen again.

“We went in with a plan last week that didn’t work. We let ourselves down and the fans down,” he said.

“We first have to fix ourselves and come out onto the field and go through it again with all our training.

“It’s not like we went out there on Saturday to just switch off in that period of the game where they scored three tries.

Should not have happened

“We have looked at the video, and it’s something we can manage. That shouldn’t have happened.

“It’s on ourselves to be better than what we were and not have that lapse of concentration.”

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