The Vodacom Bulls are set to make radical changes to their team to face the Lions this weekend in order to get themselves onto the winning path in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby series.
While Flip van der Merwe is set to captain the side once again, the team named on Wednesday will in all likelihood see Victor Matfield and Jacques-Louis Potgieter in the starting line-up and a bold move for regular lock Grant Hattingh to No 8.
The Bulls are set to make the changes after losing their opening two matches. They feel the changes will be the correct ones to ensure the team gets go-forward ball and executes better.
Hattingh’s possible move in particular is an interesting one, with the lock last having played No 8 back in his Varsity Cup days when he was at Maties. He never played at No 8 at the Lions during his time there, but did play flank on occasion.
The move will see the Bulls getting an extra lineout option at the back, while the mobility of Hattingh will hopefully let the loose trio gel better.
Matfield’s return to the starting team is also interesting, and is partly because Pierre Spies is not there, and partly because the Bulls want to secure good first-phase ball as they desperately need a victory against the Lions.
It is also hoped that concerns over the captaincy will be sorted out in this game.
It was noticeable in the Cheetahs game that Flip van der Merwe at one point wanted to go for the sideline with a penalty kick, only to have Matfield point to the posts. The Bulls took the penalty kick at goal but it was unclear who was captaining the side at the time.
While it was expected that Handre Pollard would shift into the starting role at flyhalf after Louis Fouche’s two disappointing outings, Jacques-Louis Potgieter is set to take the spot with Pollard on the bench.
Fouche will drop out of the 22 altogether but there will be no other changes to the backline, despite failing to fire in the last two outings.
Potgieter scored 20 points in the curtain-raiser on Friday against the Free State Cheetahs’ Vodacom Cup side in a pre-season friendly and his experience, along with his big boot, are seen as the reasons why the Bulls have gone for him above the talented Pollard.
Pollard, however, has made a significant impact in both games off the bench and the Bulls feel he can be better utilised in this position.
Frik Kirsten should move into the tighthead position in the only change in the front row.
The Bulls were given further good news when it was learnt that Deon Stegmann does not have to undergo surgery for his groin injury which has stopped him from playing in this year’s Super Rugby competition.
Stegmann will continue his rehab and, if all goes well, should be ready for the Bulls’ game against the Blues at Loftus Versfeld next weekend.