Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais named Springbok prop Marcel Van Der Merwe in his starting front-row and added Springbok midfielder Jan Serfontein to his bench for Friday’s Absa Currie Cup match against the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld. Marais also has Francois Hougaard back in the starting team after the scrumhalf missed last week’s win over Griquas due to personal reasons. He replaces Ivan van Zyl who moves back to the bench.
Hougaard’s return is the only change in the backline, but Marais made three changes in the pack. Van der Merwe comes in for Werner Kruger, who is rested and a fit-again Roelof Smit comes in for Jannes Kirsten at flank, with the latter moving to the bench. In the other change, Dean Greyling will be replaced Pierre Schoeman. Greyling has a knee strain and with Schoeman fit and ready to go following a long injury lay-off, Marais decided to give Greyling a break.
Under-21 regular Schoeman will make his debut in the competition, but has played for the Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup. Serfontein comes in for Dan Kriel, who will return to the Under-21 team. Marais says: ‘Jan will certainly add some class to our backline. He is in need of game time and there is no need to rush him back, so he will contribute off the bench.’ Blue Bulls captain, LappiesLabuschagne, is happy to have the Springboks back in the team: ‘Both Marcel and Jan were very unlucky to miss out on a World Cup spot, so we are very pleased that they are back to play for us. They will be keen to show why they should have been in the squad and that motivation will spur us on. The Cheetahs are dangerous and have their tails up, so we will need to be sharp on Friday.
Meanwhile, Flip Van Der Merwe has been released to join French club Clermont.
The team is: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Francois Hougaard, Arno Botha, Roelof Smit, Lappies Labuschagne (c), Marvin Orie, Jacques Du Plessis, Marcel Van Der Merwe, Bandise Maku, Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Dayan Van Der Westhuizen, RG Snyman, Jannes Kirsten, Ivan Van Zyl, Louis Fouche, Jan Serfontein.