Ruan Vermaak will make his debut for the Vodacom Bulls when the Currie Cup front-runners host the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
The 24-year-old lock will be in the starting XV, where he will partner Janko Swanepoel in the second row in the Bulls’ penultimate round-robin match in the competition.
Lizo Gqoboka will once again lead the side while Morne Steyn returns in the No 10 jersey and as vice-captain.
Bulls coach Gert Smal will field an overall exciting lineup with familiar personnel who have performed throughout the campaign.
There will be some anticipation for the unleashing of youthful talent from the bench, which includes Francois Klopper, Stephan Smit and Tharquinn Manuel, all of whom played a key role in Tuks’ 2022 Varsity Cup title win.
With only three rounds remaining of the Currie Cup, holders Bulls – 42 points after 10 games – are leading the Free State Cheetahs by a single point, but the Free Staters have a game in hand.
The Pumas are fifth after nine matches, and Smal is expecting a tough encounter with the men from Nelspruit.
“We have worked hard this week in preparation for a match that we have no doubt will be a huge challenge. The Pumas remain one of the most dangerous sides in the Currie Cup, and history has proven that they never come to Loftus Versfeld short of motivation,” he said.
“We look forward to seeing this team continue the good form they have shown and also to continue improving on areas that need improvement.
“We are not yet at our peak, and it is important that we continue to see positive adjustments in our game with each passing week.
“We have no doubt that the Pumas will throw everything at us on Friday. We will have to be at our best if we want to overcome a spirited opposition like we have coming up this week.”
Bulls – 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 David Kriel, 13 Stedman Gans, 12 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 11 Richard Kriel, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Reinhardt Ludwig, 6 WJ Steenkamp, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Lizo Gqoboka (c).
Subs: 16 Sidney Tobias, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Kloppers, 19 Raynard Roets, 20 Stephan Smit, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Juan Mostert, 23 Tharquinn Manuel.
Pumas – 15 Devon Williams, 14 Sebastian de Klerk, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Eddie Fouche, 11 Tapiwa Mafura, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Chriswill September, 8 Willie Engelbrecht (c), 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Shane Kirkwood, 4 Deon Slabbert, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Eduan Swart, 1 Corne Fourie.
Subs: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Dewald Maritz, 18 Simon Raw, 19 Darrien Landsberg, 20 Francois Kleinhans, 21 Giovan Snyman, 22 Aliqhayiya Mgijima, 23 Jade Stighling.