Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made seven changes to his starting team to face the Rebels in a Super Rugby clash in Melbourne on Saturday. There are three changes in the backline that faced the Brumbies last weekend and four in the pack. Jesse Kriel, Travis Ismaiel and Jacques-Louis Potgieter all move into starting positions off the bench, replacing Jurgen Visser, Bjorn Basson and Handré Pollard respectively.
Visser and Basson will play off the bench, but Pollard will be rested for this clash. Instead, Tian Schoeman, who joined the touring party on Tuesday, will be the back-up flyhalf on the bench. In the pack, injured Deon Stegmann is replaced by Lappies Labuschagne, with Grant Hattingh moving to the bench to make way for Victor Matfield.
The veteran lock will play in his 148th match at this level. In a straight swop, Jacques Du Plessis starts at seven and Arno Botha moves to the bench. Adriaan Strauss was only not considered due to the resting agreement with SARU, resulting in Callie Visagie running onto the field for his 50th match for the Bulls in the number two jersey. Jaco Visagie will be on the bench.
According to Ludeke this is do or die for the team: ‘We have not achieved the results we have hoped for this far on tour and we have to win this one to stay in the competition. In fact, we see this as a knock-out match. We cannot afford defeat and will go into this match in play-off mode.’ He is confident that the changes in the side will not impact their performances, especially as Pollard and Basson have started in all the matches so far. Ludeke says: ‘We have an excellent replacement in Pottie (Potgieter) as he has vast experience and is a proven competitor at this level. Bjorn is playing great rugby, but needs a break and Travis has shown his potential this far off the bench. It is great to have Victor back as the line-outs will be a key area for us.’
The team to play the Rebels on Saturday (with Super caps) is: Jesse Kriel (15), Francois Hougaard (86), JJ Engelbrecht (63), Burger Odendaal (8), Travis Ismaiel (4), Jacques-Louis Potgieter (60), Rudy Paige (19), Pierre Spies (c, 117), Jacques Du Plessis (29), Lappies Labuschagne (38), Victor Matfield (147), Flip Van Der Merwe (79), Marcel Van Der Merwe (31), Callie Visagie (49), Dean Greyling (66).
Replacements: Jaco Visagie (2), Trevor Nyakane (56), Werner Kruger (111), Grant Hattingh (46), Arno Botha (31), Tian Schoeman (5), Bjorn Basson (85), Jurgen Visser (31).