Another tough day at the office for Connacht after a disappointing 28-14 defeat to the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

It’s a third defeat in-a-row for the Western province, having already lost their opening two matches which were both away to Ulster and the defending BKT URC Champions Stormers.

Coming up against the Bulls was always going to be a tough test and the home side looked to show their power early but were denied by the TMO after mauling over the try line where Johan Grobbelaar’s try was ruled out.

Not long after though, Connacht looked to attack and stretch the home sides defence but there was one pass too many when John Porch under pressure by Canan Moodie tried to set Oran McNulty off only for the ball to be misplaced, ending up with Bulls full-back Kurt-Lee Arendse who ran from his own half where no one could catch him from scoring the opening try.

The Bulls widened their advantage on the ten minute mark, second-row Walt Steenkamp powered his way to an inch of the try line where scrum-half Zak Burger finished off to make it Bulls 14-0 Connacht.

As the game went on Connacht started to get their hands more on the ball but couldn’t find a break through with some errors creeping into their game as they looked to claw back the lead.

Nearing 20 minutes on the clock, the Bulls were reduced to 14-men when Marco van Staden was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle. Despite having the extra man Connacht couldn’t make the numbers count.

Connacht showed plenty of glimpses of what they can do but the Bulls defence were ready to suffocate any danger that came their way.

The half came to an end with the Bulls getting their third try of the game, Marcell Coetzee bashing his way over the line, Goosen adding the extra two points to leave it 21-0 at the break.

Connacht showed a lot more promise and composure on the ball in the second forty but it was the Bulls who got the opening score of the half when Connacht were turned over. From the attack, second-row Ruan Nortje punched through a gap in the Connacht defence where he released Burger for his second try of the game. Another conversion by Goosen made it 28-0.

As the half went on the home side saw two further yellow cards, a high tackle from Goosen on Kieran Marmion just after 50mins and then Jan-Hendrick Wessels for a late hit on David Hawkshaw in the 65th minute.

Playing with an extra man Connacht took advantage, tries from Jack Aungier, his second of the season which both came in South Africa. Aungier showed great strength to power over from close range. Hawkshaw converted with ten minutes to go.

Hawkshaw making his first start for the club got his own try when blocking down Chris Smith’s attempted clearance, he gathered the loose ball before going under the posts. The conversion made it 28-14 to the home team which would be the final result.

Up next for Connacht is a massive Interprovincial-derby at home to Munster.

The U18 Girls team to take on Ulster in Newforge, Belfast this Sunday has been named (k/o 2pm).

No. Player Club School
1 Ella Burns Tuam/Oughterard Dunmore Community School
2 Ellen O’Toole Westport RFC Sancta Maria College
3 Roisin Maher Creggs RFC Convent of Mercy, Roscommon
4 Grainne Hahessy Claremorris Colts Mount Saint Micheal, Claremorris
5 Sarah Mc Cormick Ballina RFC Gortnor Abbey ,Crossmolina
6 Jemima Adams Verling Creggs RFC Colaiste Mhuire, Ballygar
7 Beibhinn Gleeson Tuam/Oughterard Scoil Bhríde, Mercy Secondary School, Tuam
8 Karly Tierney Tuam/Oughterard Salerno Secondary School, Salthill
9 Grainne Moran Ballina RFC Gortnor Abbey ,Crossmolina
10 Clara Barrett Ballina RFC St Brendan’s Collage, Belmullet
11 Emily Foley Ballina RFC Jesus and Mary Secondary School ,Enniscrone
12 Eabha Nic Dhonncha ( C ) Tuam/Oughterard Scoil Chumsitheach Chiaráin
13 Molly Boote Tuam/Oughterard Convent of Mercy, Roscommon
14 Mila Sotoparra Ballina RFC St Josephs, Foxford
15 Hannah Clarke Tuam/Oughterard St Pauls, Oughterard
16 Nadine Fitzmaurice Creggs RFC Glenamaddy Community School(GCS)
17 Niamh Corless Claremorris Colts Mount Saint Micheal, Claremorris
18 Grainne O’ Rourke Tuam/Oughterard Presentation College,Currylea
19 Ella Greene Ballinasloe Ard Mhuire,Ballinasloe
20 Laura Hastings Tuam/Oughterard Presentation College, Headford
21 Rhona O’Dea Claremorris Colts Mount Saint Micheal, Claremorris
22 Sarah Purcell Creggs RFC Convent of Mercy, Roscommon
23 Cavina Maloney Gort RFC St Raphaels, Loughrea
Aisling Whyte Corinthians RFC St Brigids College Loughrea
Merisa Kiripati Buccaneers Colaiste Mhuire, Ballygar
Evanna Finn Corinthians RFC Yeats College,Galway
Ailish Quinn Ballina RFC St Mary’s Secondary School,Ballina
Abbie Murray Buccaneers Colaiste Chiarain
Coaching Ticket
Craig Hansberry Head Coach
Cathal Evans Backs Coach
Luke O’Donnell Skills Coach
Martin Staunton Forwards Coach
Natalie Fox Manager
Joe Smyth Physio
Hubert Kowalski S&C

The Connacht side has been named ahead of tomorrow’s clash with the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria (k/o 5.30pm Irish time).

There are seven changes from the side that played last week, with David Hawkshaw handed his first Connacht start at out-half. He forms a new-look half-back pairing with Kieran Marmion, while the only other change in the backs is the return of Tom Daly to inside centre. He partners Tom Farrell, with an unchanged back three of wingers Mack Hansen and John Porch and full-back Oran McNulty.

In the pack there’s a return for Dave Heffernan who forms a very experienced front row with Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham. There’s a new second row pairing of Leva Fifita and Oisín Dowling, meaning Josh Murphy moves to blindside flanker. The rest of the back row consists of openside flanker Conor Oliver and number 8 Jarrad Butler.

The management have opted for a 6:2 split on the bench and includes hooker Grant Stewart and Academy graduate Ciarán Booth, who will both make their debuts for the province if called upon.

Commenting on the team announcement, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:

“Whilst our first two performances have been disappointing and below our own expectations, the mood within the team remains positive.  Everyone has been working really to hard iron out some the issues that have hindered us in the opening rounds, and we’re excited about the opportunity that the Bulls presents.

All five players who joined us post the Stormers match have proven to be great additions for us, especially our Team Captain Jack Carty. It’s been fantastic to have him back training with us for the first time this season, and he’s on target for selection in the not too distant future.”


Friday 30th September 2022, 17:30 Irish time / 18:30 South Africa time @ Loftus Versfeld Stadium

Number/Name/Caps ( * denotes uncapped)

15. Oran McNulty (10)
14. John Porch (61)
13. Tom Farrell (81)
12. Tom Daly (62)
11. Mack Hansen (15)
10. David Hawkshaw (2)
9. Kieran Marmion (211)
1. Denis Buckley (210)
2. Dave Heffernan (167)
3. Finlay Bealham (175)
4. Leva Fifita (16)
5. Oisín Dowling (26)
6. Josh Murphy (2)
7. Conor Oliver(42)
8. Jarrad Butler (96) (C)

16. Grant Stewart *
17. Peter Dooley (2)
18. Jack Aungier (33)
19. Gavin Thornbury (64)
20. Shamus Hurley-Langton (2)
21. Colm Reilly (9)
22. Byron Ralston (2)
23. Ciarán Booth *

Conor Oliver was one of the late arrivals to South Africa, which meant, missing the game on Saturday against the DHL Stormers. Fit and ready to go the back-rower is available for selection ahead of Friday’s Round 3 BKT United Rugby Championship tie against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria (k/o 5.30pm Irish time).

When on tours like this players know it’s two weeks of hard work in preparation for matches. Being with each other 24/7 this is the longest period of time the whole group will be in each others company, so what is it like to be on a tour like this?

“These tours to South Africa are tough but they are also really helpful for the team to bond more” said Oliver

“Lads get closer and learn a lot more about one another which you probably wouldn’t get in a week’s lead up to another match”

“For the new lads that have come in it gives them a real chance to get to know everyone better and I get the chance to know them better on and off the pitch which is great.

Loftus Versfeld is the venue on Friday, an iconic stadium and which Oliver and the rest of the Connacht players can’t wait to see.

“We discussed about how cool it will be to play there but we also said how cool it would be to get a win there”

“There’s real belief in the camp that we can come away with a win at Loftus and what a venue it would be to win after last weekend’s result”

“I’m buzzing and can’t wait for Friday, hopefully I’ll be named in the starting 15”

“I always want to be playing so missing last week was annoying”

Last weekend Connacht lost to the defending URC champions Stormers and will be hoping to bounce back and get their first win of the season.

“We’ve changed a lot of our attacking shapes with different principles in place compared to what we did last year”

“We know this takes a bit of time to gel but at the same time as players its up to us to put those wheels in motion quickly and get up to speed”

“From the opening two rounds we identified the amount of opportunities we’re creating especially last weekend but we didn’t take them and that’s something we need to change”

“We were a pass or two away from scoring a couple of tries, so that’s one of the main things we’ve noted as we know we’re almost there from what we are trying to do”

“Once we get past the teething stage of this its going to be very exciting”

Another man that joined Conor to South Africa late was club captain Jack Carty. The fly-half has missed the opening two games as he makes his way back to fitness, but, he may be available for Friday’s game in Pretoria.

Oliver spoke about his team mate and how he’s been around the squad since being announced captain.

“It’s his first season and its a bit of a pity that he hasn’t been involved in the first couple of games but he has been around the group for training and meetings making sure his presence is felt”

“Jack is a composed leader who is very calm in the way he delivers messages which I love from a captain”

“We have Jarrad Butler there who will guide Jack into the role and he’s another great man to have in the dressing room”

The Connacht team for Friday’s game against the Bulls will be named tomorrow at 12 midday.

Round three of the BKT United Rugby Championship sees Connacht travel to Pretoria where they take on the Vodacom Bulls, Friday at Loftus Versfeld (k\o 5.30pm Irish time)

Connacht will be hoping it’s third time lucky and get their first win of the season as they come up against a Bulls team who have won their opening two games. One man who knows all about South African rugby in the Connacht setup is forwards coach Dewald Senekal.

Ahead of Friday’s game, Senekal spoke about last Saturday’s defeat to the DHL Stormers in Stellenbosch and what the coaches thought about the performance from the men in green.

“As coaches we have been with each other for 15 months now and we have a process whether its a win or loss”

“That process being, have we set out what we looked to do and stick to our key principles”

“We build our house on these key principles so that’s what we look at from games”

“Yes we were frustrated about some stuff, particularly the penalties we gave away but we felt there was a lot of good things, one or two more passes in certain areas and we could have scored a few more tries”

The sending off of Bundee Aki was one of the big talking points coming away from the game. Connacht’s South African coach gave his thoughts on the red card.

“It was a 14 point swing, we had just scored a try but that was ruled out due to the refs call along with the TMO from Bundee’s tackle in the lead up”

“Back in my day you probably would have got away with that but not nowadays”

“Bundee has been extremely apologetic about it”

“He loves Connacht and never wants to disappoint the club or fans but he knows he acted wrongfully towards the officials in that moment”

It’s the Bulls on Friday for Connacht who are considered a very physical side. A clash of two different styles expected at Loftus on Friday but how will Connacht look to cope with the power in which the South Africans will bring?

“One of the frustrations for us in the Ulster game was we weren’t physical enough as a pack of forwards” Senekal said

“I think we need to stop being the nice Connacht Irish boys and start imposing ourselves in games more”

“For me that part of our game is a mindset issue, we did our review from the Ulster game and I think we showed bits of our learnings from it against the Stormers which is a step in the right direction”

“Going up to Loftus is a massive physical battle, even in South Africa Loftus is considered the most physical game of the lot”

“We know the Bulls haven’t forgot what happened last year at The Sportsground and we know what’s coming, so we need to meet this storm that’s coming head on”

Being back in South Africa has given Dewald the chance to meet up with family and friends in his home country but there is an itch to get back to the West of Ireland once Friday’s match is finished.

“My family is still based down in Port Elizabeth so they came down to Cape Town where we hired a house not too far from where we live so I was fortunate enough to see them”

“They came to the game with my cousins along with my brothers children so it was great to catch up with all of them and the energy it gave me seeing them was brilliant”

“As a single man these trips are great but as a married man who is a father I miss my wife and my daughter so I can’t wait to get back to Galway and see my little girl”

Following huge demand for tickets, Connacht Rugby can confirm that temporary terracing will be installed for both BKT United Rugby Championship interpros against Munster and Leinster next month.

The game against Munster on Friday 7th October is set to be a momentous occasion as the club plays its first fixture on the new state-of-the-art, artificial surface.

Just seven days later neighbours Leinster visit the West of Ireland, in what will be another crucial game in the context of the overall season.

The terraces will be located at the Bohermore and College Road ends of the ground, bringing the capacity of The Sportsground up to 8,129.

Tickets for both games are on sale now at, and supporters are urged to act quickly to avoid disappointment.

We are also now offering our fans a special October Interpros bundle. This bundle will guarantee your place in The Sportsground for these can’t-miss October games.

Its round 3 of the BKT United Rugby Championship as we travel to Pretoria to take on the Vodacom Bulls this Friday. 

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Friday’s game.

When’s the game?

Kick-off at Loftus Versfeld is at 5.30pm Irish time on Friday 30th September.

What’s the state of play so far?

Connacht come into the game on the back of two losses, away in both to Ulster and defending champions DHL Stormers.

The Bulls are two wins from two. They beat the Lions in Round 1 before a late penalty saw them beat Edinburgh at home in Round 2.

How’s our recent record against them?

Last season was our first meeting against the Bulls where we won 34-7 at The Sportsground.

How will the two teams line up?

The Connacht management team will announce their squad at 12pm on Thursday when it will be named on and the Connacht Rugby social channels.

How do I get tickets?

Tickets are available through Bulls.

What channel is it on?

TG4 and Premier Sports will have live TV coverage while Galway Bay FM have live radio commentary.

Another away performance not to be for Connacht after defeat in Stellenbosch to DHL Stormers.

The defending champions of the the United Rugby Championship took advantage of Connacht going down to 14 men after Bundee Aki’s getting sent off for a dangerous clear-out, the sending off coming midway through the second half after Tom Farrell touching down before going to the TMO.

Farrell’s try would have brought Connacht to within a score of the champions but the sending off extinguished any hope of a fight back.

It was a sore defeat for Connacht to take but one of the big concerns for Andy Friend and his coaching staff is the ankle injury picked up by scrum-half Caolin Blade. Blade is named to go on Emerging Ireland tour of South Africa in the coming weeks.

Stormers back row, Evan Roos opened the scoring for the South African side. Dylan Tierney-Martin got Connacht back into the game with a try before half-time which had the score 13-8 in the home sides favour.

Through the boot of Manie Libbok, Stormers had stretched their lead out to 19-8 when Aki was shown red. Quickfire tries by Andre-Hugo Venter and Hacjivah Dayimani wrapped up the result for Stormers against the 14-men of Connacht before Marcel Theunissen earned the hosts a four-try bonus point in second-half stoppage time.

This Saturday Connacht take on the defending BKT United Rugby Championship champions DHL Stormers at the Danie Craven Stadium (k/o 1.30pm Irish time).

It’s a challenge every Connacht player is looking forward to, and a chance to improve on last Saturday’s defeat away to Ulster in the opening round. Tom Daly spoke about last weekends game up in Belfast.

“It was a very disappointing performance and result”

“When the fixtures came out half way through the summer and we saw it was Ulster up first we were excited because we’ve had some good battles over the years with them”

“As a group we had a good look back at the game on Sunday and a lot of it is easy fixes”

“There was a five to ten minute period after half time where we gave away a lot of silly penalties and that was kind of the winning and losing of the game as they punished us for our sloppy mistakes”

For the next two weeks the players will get to spend more time together than any other period of the season while they stay in South Africa. Daly feels its a great time for the players to gel more while on this tour.

“These trips are good ones to be selected for as you are excited to play these South African teams who bring something different and new challenges”

“Its good that we have this trip at the start of the year as its a good team bonding period as you are with the team 24/7”

The Connacht attack didn’t flow the way it would like against Ulster so what will have to change this weekend?

“I think when we got into the Ulster half we just didn’t look after the ball the way we should have” said Daly

“We want a reaction after last Saturday and this is the ideal game”

“Its a huge challenge coming up against the champions even without their Springboks players but we know we can win down there as we’ve done it before”

The Connacht team for Saturday will be announced tomorrow at midday


Match Report: Vodacom Bulls 28-14 Connacht

Conor Oliver looking to grab the Bull by the horns

Conor Oliver looking to grab the Bull by the horns

5 days ago
Dewald Senekal: Connacht looking to Bull out all the stops

Dewald Senekal: Connacht looking to Bull out all the stops

6 days ago
PREVIEW: Connacht V Vodacom Bulls

PREVIEW: Connacht V Vodacom Bulls

1 year ago