The Vodacom Bulls team to play the Toyota Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday has been bolstered by the return of two experienced campaigners, with Akona Ndungane and Flip van der Merwe back in the starting line-up.
Official Bulls Media Release
Ndungane has recovered from the eye socket injury sustained against the Crusaders four weeks ago and will start in his 87th Super Rugby match for the three time champions, while Van der Merwe, who picked up a chest muscle injury in the same Christchurch clash, will appear in his 53rd, Super match, with six of those in Cheetahs colours earlier in his career.
They replace Jürgen Visser and Paul Willemse respectively, with Visser taking over at fullback from injured Zane Kirchner and Willemse moving to the bench from impact later in the match.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke also made a tactical switch from the side that suffered a last gasp defeat against the Brumbies two weeks ago, with Frik Kirsten starting at tight head and veteran prop Werner Kruger playing off the bench.
“We are happy with the squad rotation and with a couple of stalwarts still out injured, has given some of our youngsters good opportunities to play,” Ludeke said.
“We feel that we left some points on the road, but now have a good stretch back home where we play ourselves back into those important play-off positions,” Ludeke said.
“The rest did wonders to all and I am pleased with the way we prepared for this one.” The match could also see a first Vodacom Bulls appearance for scrumhalf Rudy Paige and utility back Ulrich Beyers, while Lions loan player Callie Visagie has been drafted in to give Willie Wepener a rest.
With Francois Hougaard still nursing an ankle injury, Paige will back-up Jano Vermaak and Beyers will replace a sore Francois Venter as a backs replacement.
Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies admitted that it will be good playing in front of their home support again.
“We will certainly need all the support we can get against a Cheetahs side that is playing with a lot of confidence and momentum. History counts for nothing in this one, so past performances will have no bearing on this clash. We will have to front up from the first minute of play to the last. The Cheetahs play for 80 minutes and we need to make sure we play our style and on our terms.”
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (Captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellett
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Paul Willemse, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Ulrich Beyers.