Jono Ross will lead the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the absence of suspended skipper Deon Stegmann when they play the Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday. Ross was the regular skipper in 2013 and will lead a team that include four new faces in Wiaan Liebenberg, Callie Visagie, Sampie Mastriet and Rudy Paige from the starting line-up that beat EP Kings last weekend. Liebenberg comes in for Stegmann, a fit-again Visagie replaces Bongi Mbonambi and Mastriet comes in for Akona Ndungane on the wing. Paige moves up from the bench swopping places with Piet Van Zyl.
Mbonambi edges out Bandise Maku. Jesse Kriel (for Ryan Nell) has been included on the bench having recovered from an ankle injury, as is Mornè Mellett (for Basil Short), back after knee rehabilitation. Tian Schoeman replaces Tony Jantjies as back-up flyhalf in a final selection switch for this Absa Currie Cup clash. Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke admitted that they will have to be at their best against the visitors, who are currently in fourth spot on the Premier Division log.
The Blue Bulls are in sixth position. “We are now in a critical phase of the competition. It is already clear to all that you need to be at your very best every weekend if you want to make the final four, so we really don’t have any other option. The Cell C Sharks are well-balanced and have massive strike power at the back,” said Ludeke. The Bulls boss said it was too early to look at play-off permutations, “We can only run our own race week after week and that will ultimately determine our fate. If we keep on winning and get the right result in the remaining weeks, I am sure we will be in the top four, but we cannot afford to look past this weekend’s match.”