Arno Botha will captain the Vodacom Bulls in their first Super Rugby Unlocked match against Griquas in Pretoria on Saturday.
Botha, who will be making his official return to the Bulls starting lineup after an overseas stint with Munster, wears the captain’s armband as Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen has been rested as a precaution after picking up a knee injury while playing in last weekend’s Springbok Showdown.
Bulls director of rugby and head coach Jake White has named a relatively unchanged backline from the one that did the business for them on Super Fan Saturday.
Gio Aplon, Travis Ismaiel, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks and the halfback pair of Morne Steyn and Ivan van Zyl all retain their places in the starting XV. In the only change former Western Province back David Kriel makes his starting debut on the left wing in place of Kurt-Lee Arendse, who has also been rested as an injury precaution.
Among the forwards, No 8 Tim Agaba replaces Vermeulen and joins Botha and Marco van Staden in the loose trio. Jason Jenkins and Ruan Nortje continue their second-row combination, while in the front row, loosehead prop Jacques van Rooyen will debut alongside Trevor Nyakane and Corniel Els.
There are three potential debutants on the bench. Former Cheetahs lock Sintu Manjezi, loose forward Elrigh Louw and flyhalf Chris Smith could all be set to make their first official appearances for the Bulls if they come on to the field.
Bulls – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 David Kriel, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Tim Agaba, 7 Arno Botha (c), 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Sintu Manjezi, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren.
Non-playing subs: 24 Jan Uys, 25 Duane Vermeulen, 26 Jade Stighling.
Photo: Gallo Images