SA Under-20 star Jesse Kriel will start his first Vodacom Super Rugby match for the Bulls in Friday’s Loftus Versfeld clash against the Hurricanes. Frans Ludeke has made three changes to the pack with Pierre Spies coming in at eighthman for Arno Botha, Morné Mellett at loosehead prop and Trevor Nyakane moving to tighthead. Spies takes over the captaincy from Victor Matfield while Nyakane replaces the injured Werner Kruger, opening a spot for Dean Greyling on the bench.
Hanro Liebenberg, younger brother of former Junior Springbok captain Wiaan, will make his Super Rugby debut if he gets game time off the bench. Meanwhile for the Canes, All Blacks midfielder Ma’a Nonu is back; his first match for the team from Wellington since 2011 and Manawatu flanker Callum Gibbins will get his first start for the New Zealanders.
The Hurricanes last won in Pretoria in 2008, but on that occasion they also recorded their biggest ever victory over the Bulls when they gave the team from Pretoria 50 (the final score was 50-22). It’s also the highest score ever recorded between these two sides, although the Bulls have won four encounters by scoring 40 points or more. The last time the Canes won two matches on tour in South Africa, was in 2006 when they finished on two from three.
In 2005, they returned home to Wellington from the Republic having won both their matches – in Johannesburg and Durban. The Wellington franchise was also unbeaten on tour to South Africa in 1998 (Pretoria and Cape Town) and 2003 (Bloemfontein and Johannesburg). The history between these two teams is dead-even, both having won eight times – four at home and four away. The average score over the years is 26-all.
Bulls boss Frans Ludeke said: ‘There is always pressure and the fact that we have five frontline props out with injury does not make it any easier. We have good depth though and we back our junior structures, so I am comfortable that we will be a very competitive outfit on Friday.’ Skipper Spies says: ‘Yes, we have a couple of younger guys in the team, but they are definitely good enough to play here. They bring lots of energy in the mix and we will need a healthy dose of that to compete on Friday against the Hurricanes, who will be full of confidence following their win last weekend. We know we were not good enough (last weekend). We did not play the important moments well and made silly errors that cost us dearly. Everyone is ready to make the step-up.’ Kick off is at 19:10.
The teams are:
Bulls: Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Piet Van Zyl, Pierre Spies (captain), Lappies Labuschagne, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Jacques Du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Morné Mellett.
Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Grant Hattingh, Hanro Liebenberg, Rudy Paige, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Jurgen Visser.
Hurricanes: Jason Woodward, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith (captain), Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Callum Gibbens, Brad Shields, James Broadhurst, Mark Abbott, Ben Franks, Dane Coles, Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: Brayden Mitchell, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Chris Eves, Ardie Savea, Victor Vito, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Matt Proctor.