Smit to start for Bulls
It may be because there is little more than pride to play for but the Vodacom Bulls made no less than seven changes to their line-up to face the Melbourne Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
With a number of players nursing injuries, coach Frans Ludeke has roped in a host of young stars and up and coming players to get a good taste of Super Rugby before the season ends.
Former SA under-20 and Tuks flanker Roelof Smit will make his first start for the Bulls at the side of the scrum, giving them a proper fetcher for the first time this season while Grant Hattingh’s injury sees the rest of the loose trio – who were fairly anonymous on Saturday – reshuffled in the hope they will make more of an impact this weekend.
Jacques Engelbrecht moves back to his favoured No 8 spot, while Jono Ross moves to 7. Jurgen Visser is back at fullback after he was forced to withdraw from the side just before kickoff on Saturday, while Francois Hougaard will slot in at wing, giving Piet van Zyl the chance to start in the no9 jersey.
At hooker Bandise Maku gets his first start of the season, with Callie Visagie on the bench, but strangely Bongi Mbonambi falls out of the match 23 totally.
There is a totally new front row with Bok Marcel van der Merwe and Morne Mellett replacing Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling respectively.
SA under-20 stars Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Jesse Kriel are both likely to get a run from the bench alongside the equally impressive Marvin Orie and William Small-Smith.
“Injury also forced our hand to make a few changes, Akona wasn’t fit for this weekend so Hougi will start at wing,” coach Frans Ludeke said.
“It opened the opportunity for Piet van Zyl to start. Among the forwards Roelof Smit moves into six, Grant Hattingh didn’t pass his fitness test. Finally in the front row, Morne and Marcel are there and it is good to give Bandise a start. He played well against Namibia away from home. It is great to give him that opportunity.
“It is great to see four of our youngsters who came through our systems, to give them the taste of Super Rugby. I know it’s the last one but it is also a good way to make sure it motivates all the rest of the youngsters in the system. It says we’re looking at them and they will come through.
Ludeke said it would be a tough game for the Bulls, but one they wanted to win well to ensure they finish the season unbeaten at Loftus.
“It is a vital game for us, we’re playing the last game of the Super Rugby competition and we would like to finish on a high, playing well. Obviously against the Stormers there was a lot of things we looked at, but at the end of the day it simply wasn’t good enough.
“We’d like to make an improvement this weekend.”
The Vodacom Bulls team to play the Rebels is: Jurgen Visser, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Piet van Zyl, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jono Ross, Roelof Smit, Victor Matfield, Paul Willemse, Marcel van der Merwe, Bandise Maku, Morné Mellett.
Replacements: Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Dean Greyling, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie, Jesse Kriel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, William-Small Smith.