Bulls stick with Steyn and co
The Vodacom Bulls have resisted the urge to elevate SA under-20 flyhalf Handre Pollard to Vodacom Super Rugby level, and decided rather to stick with the tried and tested for their showdown with the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday.
The Bulls brought back Morne Steyn in the place of Louis Fouche, who who has had to undergo surgery for torn knee ligaments, and decided to rather use Jurgen Visser as back-up flyhalf if needed than give Pollard his debut at this level.
The conservatism is perhaps understandable as Pollard needs to direct the play during the upcoming Absa Currie Cup season and the Bulls haven’t got too much in the form of flyhalf reserves. It also shows that Steyn will play probably the entire 80 minutes with coach Frans Ludeke not likely to change unless necessary.
Instead, Pollard will head up a strong second string Bulls side to face the Lions in a friendly on Saturday.
Steyn’s return to the side is one of three changes, with JJ Engelbrecht also returning after a week’s break to partner Jan Serfontein in the midfield again. Serfontein moves back to inside centre in the third change to the team.
There are a number of changes to the bench, with Springbok Jano Vermaak returning from his hamstring injury, replacing Rudy Page, while Willie Wepener drops out at hooker for Callie Visagie and Visser comes in at back-up flyhalf.
Ludeke also decided on a second prop on the bench as Morne Mellett takes the place of Juandre Kruger on the bench.
“We have had a lot of disruptions since the squad returned and injuries to the likes of Pierre (Spies), Arno (Botha), Louis (Fouche) and the departures of Wynand (Olivier) and Juandre (Kruger) certainly did not make life easier for us. Fortunately we have always backed the depth of our squad and that is bearing fruit,” Ludeke said.
“We will face a Sharks team that will be desperate, as they need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, but we have also goals to achieve and to get there we need to keep on winning,” Ludeke said.
Vodacom Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter said the focus will be solely on doing the basics right as a team.
“We are not looking at the bigger picture yet. We need to beat a very strong Sharks side packed with class players and lots of experience. We need to back ourselves, execute what has worked for us for far and, most importantly, show up as a team on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe will make his long awaited debut for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in a friendly match against the MTN Golden Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Van der Merwe joined the Vodacom Blue Bulls last year, but has been recovering from a knee operation since. Francois Venter also makes a comeback after a groin operation kept him on the sidelines for the past few weeks.
Interestingly SA under-20 back Jesse Kriel is on the wing with the mouth-watering loose forward combination of Jean Cook, Jacques Du Plessis and Shaun Adendorff.
Vodacom Bulls (to face Sharks): Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter (c), Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Frik Kirsten, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Jono Ross, Jano Vermaak, Jürgen Visser, Morné Mellett.
Vodacom Blue Bulls (to face Lions): Clayton Blommetjies, Jesse Kriel, Ulrich Beyers, Francois Venter, Travis Ismaiel, Handrè Pollard, Rudy Paige, Jean Cook, Jacques du Plessis, Shaun Adendorff, Dennis Visser, Schalk van Heerden, Marcel van der Merwe, Willie Wepener, Dawie Steyn. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Hencus van Wyk, Christof Gouws, Irne Herbst, Roelof Smit, Ruan Snyman, Tony Jantjies, Dries Swanepoel, Rohan Janse van Rensburg.