Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar included four Absa Currie Cup novices in his team to play defending champions DHL Western Province in Cape Town on Saturday in his team’s opening match of the 2013 competition.
Travis Ismaiel, Tony Jantjies, Jacques du Plessis and Wiaan Liebenberg all return to the venue of massive significance to them.
Ismaiel, Jantjies and Liebenberg were members of the Junior Springbok team who won the IRB Junior World Championship at this venue just under a year ago, whilst 2013 Junior Bok Du Plessis made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut for the Vodacom Bulls at Newlands a month ago.
Former Vodacom Cup leader Jono Ross will be leading the team in his debut run-on appearance for the Blue Bulls Currie Cup side. He played off the bench twice in 2011.
Paul Willemse, Callie Visagie (both MTN Golden Lions), Waylon Murray (EP Kings) and Marcell van der Merwe (Toyota Free State) will make their Currie Cup debuts for the Blue Bulls, but have played for other teams earlier in their careers.
Only five players – Francois Venter, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Frik Kirsten, Willie Wepener and Mornè Mellett remain from the team that played in the Blue Bulls last Currie Cup match in 2012, the semi-final against The Sharks in Durban.
“We are excited about the potential of our team. We do have a lot of younger players and Newlands is a severe test to even an experienced player, but if ever there was a time to justify the structures and depth at the union, this it is,” Pienaar said.
“We have a lot of faith in our structures and the younger players have all proved themselves. There is also a good core of experience, so we are looking forward to a good Currie Cup season. To start away against the defending champions is a very tough ask, but if we want to reach the top, we must embrace and accept all challenges,” Pienaar said.
Vodacom Blue Bulls (with number of Currie Cup caps): 15 Jürgen Visser (22), 14 Sampie Mastriet (2), 13 Ulrich Beyers (5), 12 Francois Venter (22), 11 Travis Ismaiel(0), 10 Tony Jantjies(0), 9 Rudy Paige (4), 8 Jono Ross (2, Captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis(0), 6 Wiaan Liebenberg(0), 5 Grant Hattingh (8), 4 Paul Willemse (1), 3 Frik Kirsten (25), 2 Willie Wepener (85), 1 Morné Mellet (5).
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie (18), 17 Marcell van der Merwe (25), 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp (85), 19 Jean Cook (3), 20 Ruan Snyman (19), 21 Waylon Murray (71), 22 Clayton Blommetjies (5).