Gert Smal has bolstered the Vodacom Bulls lineup with Springbok and Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaigners for the Currie Cup semi-final against Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
Bok prop Lizo Gqoboka is back to lead the Bulls after a family bereavement, along with the experienced Marco Jansen van Vuren and talented young forwards Reinhardt Ludwig and Jan-Hendrik Wessels, who travelled to Ireland to face Leinster in the URC semi-final last week.
Following the inclusion of Jansen van Vuren, who will earn a starting berth at inside centre, vice-captain Stedman Gans will shift to the wing this week.
The bench has also been strengthened with Dylan Smith providing prop cover and scrumhalf Bernard van der Linde available to add firepower in the latter stages of the game.
The Bulls expect a huge challenge from a motivated Griquas side as both sides will be eager to book a spot in the final against the winner of the second semi-final between the Cheetahs and Pumas.
“It has been a highly competitive season of Currie Cup with no easy games. It now gets even tougher in the knockout stages, and we are expecting what could potentially be the toughest match so far when we go up against Griquas on Friday,” said Bulls coach Smal.
“Griquas are always motivated when they visit Loftus, and they will even be hungrier now that they are a step closer to the final. We have had to work hard this week following the defeat to the Cheetahs last weekend.
“We will need an improved performance. We hope to give our supporters something to smile about in what is a big weekend for the Bulls.”
Meanwhile, Griquas coach Pieter Bergh has been forced to make changes and will start Johan Mulder and Janco Uys for injured Stormers-bound scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer and veteran hooker Simon Westraadt.
But, utility back Zander du Plessis (concussion) is back after missing last Friday’s thrilling win over Pumas.
Bulls – 15 Richard Kriel, 14 Tharquinn Manuel, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 11 Stedman Gans, 10 Juan Mostert, 9 Keagan Johannes, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Ruan Delport, 6 Jaco Labuschagne, 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Raynard Roets, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Willie Potgieter, 20 Stephan Smit, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Niel Beukes, 23 Quewin Nortje.
Griquas – 15 Ashlon Davids, 14 Munier Hartzenberg, 13 Sango Xamlashe, 12 Rynhardt Jonker, 11 Luther Obi, 10 Zander du Plessis, 9 Johan Mulder, 8 Sibabalo Qoma, 7 Hanru Sirgel, 6 Niel Otto (c), 5 Derik Pretorius, 4 Johan Retief, 3 Janu Botha, 2 Janco Uys, 1 Kudzwai Dube.
Subs: 16 Gustav du Rand, 17 Eddie Davids, 18 Andries Schutte, 19 Cameron Lindsay, 20 Werner Gouws, 21 Fiela Boshoff, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Christopher Hollis.