Experienced loose forward Arno Botha will lead a Bulls team jam-packed with Springboks, Blitzboks and Junior Springbok talent against Griquas in the opening round of Super Rugby Unlocked at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.
The backline remains relatively unchanged from the Super Fan Saturday team that was triumphant against the Sharks two weeks ago.
The only change sees the fleet-footed David Kriel starting on the left wing as he makes his debut for the Bulls.
Springboks Gio Aplon, Cornal Hendricks, Travis Ismaiel, Morne Steyn and Ivan van Zyl are expected to shine on game day as their collective experience and ability to break the defensive line will be a cornerstone on attack.
Amongst the forwards, Blitzbok Tim Agaba starts at No 8 where he links up with Springbok flankers Botha and Marco van Staden while locks Jason Jenkins and Ruan Nortje continue their partnership in the second row. Regular skipper Duane Vermeulen picked a slight knee niggle last weekend and is been rested as a precaution.
The front row will be propped up by the forever smiling World Cup winning prop Trevor Nyakane and Super Rugby stalwart Jacques “Policeman” van Rooyen, who will also be making his Bulls debut.
The bench is no different in terms of explosive talent with Springbok prop Lizo Gqoboka and Junior Springbok Johan Grobbelaar at hooker eager to return to action after injury layoffs, while lock Sintu Manjezi, flank Elrigh Louw and flyhalf Chris Smith are also set to make their Bulls Super Rugby debuts.
“It’s been months of preparation and weeks of training with the players and management excited to get going. We have a mission, we’ve set high standards and now is the time for the Bulls to stamp their authority on the this competition,” Bulls director of rugby Jake White said via a press statement.
“The experience amongst our players allows us to implement our game plan quickly and with a solid foundation. I’m extremely excited for all the players making their debuts and looking forward to watching them grow,” he added.
Kick-off is 19:00 on Saturday.
15 Gio Aplon, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 David Kriel, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Arno Botha (captain), 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren
Non-playing substitutes: 24 Jan Uys, 25 Duane Vermeulen, 26 Jade Stighling
15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Daniel Kasende, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 Andre Swarts, 11 James Verity-Amm, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Carl Els, 5 Victor Sekekete, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Mox Mxoli.
Substitutes: 16 Alandre van Rooyen, 17 Bandisa Ndlovu, 18 Madot Mabokela, 19 Adre Smith, 20 Zandre Jordaan, 21 Gideon van der Merwe, 22 Ashlon Davids, 23 Berton Klaasen, 24 Mzwanele Zito, 25 Johan Momsen, 26 Bjorn Basson