Bismarck du Plessis will make his Vodacom Bulls debut when they take on Leinster in the opening match of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship at Aviva Stadium, in Dublin on Saturday.
The 37-year-old hooker and veteran of 79 Tests has been drafted straight into the run-on side despite only recently signing for the Bulls.
His presence immediately increases the credibility of a Bulls pack that has already proven to be the most dominant on South Africa’s domestic scene. Du Plessis will be flanked by props Gerhard Steenekamp and Mornay Smith, while Ruan Nortje and Walt Steenkamp team up in the second row and captain Marcell Coetzee, the former Ulster skipper no stranger to Ireland, leads a loose trio completed by flanker Arno Botha and No 8 Elrigh Louw.
Johan Goosen returns to the starting XV in a halfback pairing with scrumhalf Zak Burger, while Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe continue to develop their midfield partnership. Madosh Tambwe, Cornal Hendricks and fullback David Kriel complete the back three.
Bulls director of rugby, Jake White said: “We have had some good momentum in the South African domestic scene, and we hope we can transfer that form to the URC.
“We are in for great challenge in this quality championship against competitive opposition. To have the opportunity of facing a top side like Leinster Rugby will be the perfect opportunity to measure ourselves against one of the best sides in Europe.
“We have opted for continuity in our selection, with a team that has a good blend of youth and experience. We are confident that the inclusion of Bismarck du Plessis, whose experience is invaluable, will add great value both in our play and giving some direction as a leader.”
The match will kick off at 6.15pm and will be televised on SuperSport.
Bulls: 15 David Kriel, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Zak Burger; 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (c), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Jacques du Plessis, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Stedman Gans.