Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made two changes to his starting team that will take on the Reds in a Vodacom Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss is given a rest in compliance the Springbok rest agreement with the five franchises and Callie Visagie will start in the number two jersey. This will be Visagie’s first start of the season.
His place on the bench will be taken by Jaco Visagie, who on two previous occasions this season did bench duty. The other change from the side that came up short in Johannesburg against the Emirates Lions is at flank, where a fit-again Arno Botha will replace Hanro Liebenberg at flank. Botha recovered from a hamstring strain, with Liebenberg replacing Roelof Smit on the bench.
Another new face on the bench is that of Flip Van Der Merwe, who replaces Nicolaas Janse Van Rensburg. Van Der Merwemissed the first half of the season due to a pectoral muscle tear, but is keen to add to his 72 caps in the competition. Ludeke says: ‘It is great to have Flip back. He does not only provide a physical presence and some real grunt up front, he is also an important leader in the squad and with Victor (Matfield) out for a couple of weeks, Flip’s return could not come at a better time.’
The coach also opted to give Handré Pollard and Jan Serfontein another week off, with the latter also rested due to the SARU arrangement. Ludeke says: ‘We have some big games and a tour coming up and I would like both of them to be 100% fit for that. Both Jacques-Louis (Potgieter) and Burger (Odendaal) played well when called upon and I am happy to give them another opportunity. You need your whole squad to contribute to be successful in this competition.’ Bulls captain Pierre Spies was adamant that their low log position does not mean that the Reds will be an easy opponent: ‘They are desperate to get their season going and teams like that are always dangerous. They have some classy players in their team and if they are on song on the day, they can destroy you in a blink. We will have to play all the big moments well, but will also have to force our style of play on them and dictate the terms. That will require commitment and discipline.’
Bulls prop Trevor Nyakane will play in his 50th Super Rugby match on Saturday, with 42 of those appearances coming in the colours of the Toyota Cheetahs.
The team to play the Reds (with Super caps) is: Jesse Kriel (8), Francois Hougaard (79), JJ Engelbrecht (56), Burger Odendaal (2), Bjorn Basson (78), Jacques-Louis Potgieter (57), Rudy Paige (14), Pierre Spies (c, 110), Arno Botha (24), Deon Stegmann (86), Grant Hattingh (41), Jacques Du Plessis (22), Trevor Nyakane (49), Callie Visagie (42), Dean Greyling (60).
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Morné Mellett (31), Marcel Van Der Merwe (24), Flip Van Der Merwe (72), Hanro Liebenberg (4), Piet Van Zyl (50), Tian Schoeman (1), Jurgen Visser (27).