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Jannes Kirsten named for Bulls debut 11 months after Exeter exit

By Liam Heagney
Jannes Kirsten in action for Exeter last May (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Back row Jannes Kirsten is finally poised to make his long-awaited debut for the Bulls following his signing last year from Exeter.

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The 30-year-old, who notched a Heineken Champions Cup/Gallagher Premiership double in his first season in England in 2019/20, decided to return to Pretoria on a three-year deal following his last Chiefs appearance versus London Irish in May.

However, he was injured nearing the end of pre-season training in South Africa and will only now make his second-stint debut for the club when they host the Ospreys on Saturday in the United Rugby Championship.

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Jannes Kirsten on returning to South Africa and the Bulls

Jannes Kirsten talks about leaving Exeter Chiefs and going home, back to Pretoria where he spent most of his life.

Video Spacer

Jannes Kirsten on returning to South Africa and the Bulls

Jannes Kirsten talks about leaving Exeter Chiefs and going home, back to Pretoria where he spent most of his life.

Kirsten, who has been named on Jake White’s bench, told RugbyPass earlier in April about his lengthy lay-off. “I started at the Bulls last July, did pre-season, everything went well and then when we were doing some mauling, I picked up a nasty foot injury,” explained the flame-haired back-rower.

“I had to get surgery to get it fixed and have been in rehab since. It’s almost six months now. Initially, it was a six-month injury. I tried to play earlier but the time is somewhere in April now and hopefully, I will be back playing.

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61 - 24
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“It’s a Lisfranc injury to my right foot. It keeps the bridge of your foot like that (he uses his hand to demonstrate). It’s a ligament and I tore it and they had to do a little bit of work on it.

“I had a similar something in 2018 and that was also quite a few months, but this is my longest layoff. I’m keen to play any rugby now. It’s been a while.”

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Looking forward to Kirsten’s debut, director of rugby White said: “He is one of those guys who has won the European Cup and the English Premiership and there aren’t many guys who have done that.

“So, he brings to the team, at the back end of a competition where it is now like knockout rugby, an incredible amount of knowledge, understanding and calmness.

“He is another guy who might not be captain but definitely has some leadership qualities to help the youngsters on the field as well. He is a very detailed guy and incredibly bright.

“I can only think for the youngsters that if he can instil what he knows and what he has learned then he is already then he will already have had an impact even off the field.”

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Kirsten will provide back-up to a starting team that will be skippered by Elrigh Louw. The Bulls are currently in fourth place with four rounds of matches remaining before the quarter-finals.

“We still have our destiny in our own hands, we still have three games at home until the end of this campaign,” White added.

“Every game has to be like a final in a competition that is as competitive as this league where everyone is still in it with a chance.

“There are so many permutations that can happen and while we can control winning at Loftus and still have a chance of getting the final game, then we still have our destiny in our own control and that is important.”

VODACOM BULLS (vs Ospreys, Saturday): 15. Willie Le Roux; 14. Canan Moodie, 13. David Kriel, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Kurt-Lee Arendse; 10. Chris Smith, 9. Embrose Papier; 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Johan Grobbelaar, 3. Wilco Louw, 4. Ruan Vermaak, 5. Reinhardt Ludwig, 6. Nizaam Carr, 7. Elrigh Louw (capt) 8. Cameron Hanekom. Reps: 16. Akker van der Merwe, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Mornay Smith, 19. Janko Swanepoel, 20. Jannes Kirsten, 21. Zak Burger, 22. Jaco van der Valt, 23. Devon Williams.

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