Vodacom Bulls coach Gert Smal has deployed an exciting midfield duo for the crucial Currie Cup match against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Springbok centre Lionel Mapoe returns from injury to partner fellow former Blitzbok Stedman Gans in a midfield combination that will add firepower the Bulls backline.
Eighthman Muller Uys leads the team, while experienced tighthead prop Jacques van Rooyen adds grunt to the front row after missing a few weeks of action through injury.
One of the latest Bulls recruits, Ruan Vermaak has also been given a starting berth, donning the No 5 jersey while the talented Richard Kriel will be showcasing his versatility with a start at fullback.
The match at the Free State Stadium is crucial for the two teams gunning to finish first on the standings and secure the right to host a home semi-final and final.
The Cheetahs have been high-flying, especially at home, putting together a nine-match unbeaten run which was eventually stopped by the Griquas two weeks ago, and then compounded by another loss against the Pumas on Friday. The side from Bloemfontein will want to bounce back and continue the good run of form they displayed throughout their campaign.
“This weekend’s Currie Cup game will be like a final before the real final. It’s an absolutely crucial game for both teams,” said Smal.
“The Cheetahs have undoubtedly been the team of the competition, beating all teams, including us, and only suffered that close defeat in their previous match. That could make them even more dangerous this week – they will want to bounce back. They have shown how much of a good side they are, how well-coached they are and how hungry and determined they are for success.
“We will have to be at our best to build on the momentum we have accumulated to this point as we go into the important playoff stages from next week. Our boys have worked exceptionally hard this week and I am excited to see the team we have assembled in action.”
Bulls – 15 Richard Kriel, 14 Tharquin Manuel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Lionel Mapoe, 11 Quewin Nortje, 10 Juan Mostert, 9 Keagan Johannes; 8 Muller Uys (c), 7 Jaco Labuschagne, 6 Eric Basson, 5 Ruan Vermaak, 4 Raynard Roets, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Sidney Tobias, 1 Cebo Dlamini.
Subs: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Tielman Nieuwoudt, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Ruan Delport, 20 Willie Potgieter, 21 Tiaan Fourie, 22 FC du Plessis, 23 Niel Beukes.