• More than anybody else in Benetton’s squad, Corniel Els has prompted Bulls mentor Jake White to come up with a few tricks ahead of the Rainbow Cup final.
  • The 27-year-old hooker was a regular member of the Bulls squad in White’s early reign and will be quite familiar with his old team-mates’ ins-and-outs.
  • White says his troops are embracing the challenge of being considered favourites.

About six months ago, Corniel Els was part of the Bulls squad that nobly won the Currie Cup title.
Now, the 27-year-old hooker finds himself playing against his former team-mates for Italy’s Benetton in Saturday’s Rainbow Cup final.
Els, a former Junior Springbok, was one of players inherited by Jake White after taking over the reins at Loftus and duly did his part as a squad player before signing a short-term deal with the Italians in January.
And it’s his presence more than anything else that’s forced the Bulls’ director of rugby to come up with a few new tricks for the clash in Treviso.
15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Edoardo Padovani, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Substitutes: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Ivan Nemer, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Irné Herbst, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Marco Barbini, 22 Callum Braley, 23 Ratuva Tavuyara.
15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Janse van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 7 Ruan Nortje, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Jan Uys, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Substitutes: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Gio Aplon
“Corniel, for instance, knows our lineout calls, knows the way we play and how we think, and how I talk to teams before and during the game,” White said on Friday after announcing a match squad oozing continuity.
“So we have had to think a bit out of the box and come up with a few new things. We’ve just had to find ways to stimulate the a little bit of a different reaction against a team we probably don’t know as well as others.”
Not that White is complaining.
Just as much as the whole Italian experience is a welcome diversion for the players from the monotony of a rash of local derbies over the past months, the former Springbok coach is also confronted with a different challenge.
“I brings back a bit of memories when I was coaching in France (at Montpellier),” said White.
“We would’ve played a few Italian sides and other teams from Europe in the Challenge Cup, so this is really nice. It gives me a chance to look at a different strategy package in terms of how we want to play. 
“There are a lot of South Africans playing here, so there’ll be something in Benetton’s team that’s probably similar to us in terms of a mental point of view.”
Despite Benetton finishing the Rainbow Cup as it’s only unbeaten side in the league phase, White’s burgeoning team – hunting a third major trophy in eight months – are considered favourites for the match despite having to travel.
Befitting of a side intent on winning, the Bulls mentor embraced that tag instead of downplaying it.
“There’s always the weight of expectation on us. We are the Bulls and there is always an expectation on the Bulls team. Everybody expects us to do well and this is no different. The only unique difference is the whole of South Africa wants the Bulls to pull this off,” said White.
“That psyche is always there, we want to play well for our incredibly fanatical fans, and they always expect us to win.
“It’s no different to when we entered Super Rugby, and people wanted to see how good we were against teams from New Zealand and Australia. Everyone will be watching with interest now that we are in the Northern Hemisphere.
“It’s going to be good for us to see where we measure ourselves.”
Kick-off in Treviso is at 18:15 SA time.

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