Tuks captain Sango Xamlashe will lead the Blue Bulls in what will be his Currie Cup debut when they face Western Province at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
With the Rainbow Cup squad in Italy to contest the final of that competition, the Bulls have named a young match-day group to gear up for their opening-round Currie Cup fixture against WP.
Stand-in coach Pine Pienaar will take the reins in the absence of head coach Jake White and will be assisted by Hayden Groepes and Edgar Marutlulle.
The squad will be headlined by the return of Loftus prodigy Simphiwe Matanzima. The big loosehead prop made a massive impact on his introduction to senior rugby, even having been mentioned by media and fans alike for a potential Springbok call-up.
Returning from a long-term injury setback, Matanzima will be looking to pick up where he left off.
The prop will team up with tighthead Francois Klopper and hooker Werner Fourie in the front row. They will be backed in the scrum by locks JJ Scheepers and Tiaan de Klerk, with loosies Henco Beukes, Jaco Labuschagne and Jaco Bezuidenhout rounding out the forwards.
It’s a big weekend for the Kriel family as Richard Kriel gets the nod at fullback in his Currie Cup debut, while his brother David will more than likely don the No 15 jersey in the Rainbow Cup final.
Sebastiaan Jobb and Kefentse Mahlo have each earned starts on the wing, while the midfield will be marshalled by captain Xamlashe at outside centre, with Louritz van der Schyff at No 12. Xamlashe led UP-Tuks to the Varsity Cup title this year.
The exciting halfback pairing of flyhalf Jandre Burger and Johan Mulder at scrumhalf will be aiming to provide the perfect attack platform for an electric backline. Jandre is the younger brother of Zac Burger, who is also bound to represent the Bulls in Italy this weekend.
Pienaar reaffirmed his belief in the Bulls system and in his young group, saying: ‘Jake, together with the management team, has put in a lot of effort in aligning our structures at Loftus at all levels since his appointment.
‘So, we know exactly what is expected of us, and we know what needs to be done. This is a talented group, even in the absence of a ton of senior and contracted players due to Rainbow Cup, Bok duty, national U20 call-ups and also a few untimely injuries. I am truly excited to see these boys step up and use this opportunity to stake a claim.’
Bulls – 15 Richard Kriel, 14 Sebastiaan Jobb, 13 Sango Xamlashe (c), 12 Louritz van der Schyff, 11 Kefentse Mahlo, 10 Jandre Burger, 9 Johan Mulder, 8Jaco Bezuidenhout, 7 Jaco Labuschagne, 6 Henco Beukes, 5 Tiaan de Klerk, 4 JJ Scheepers, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Werner Fourie, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Subs: 16 Llewelyn Classen, 17 Dewald Donald, 18 Mhleli Dlamini, 19 Adolph Visser, 20 Eduan Lubbe, 21 Tiaan Fourie, 22 Kabelo Mokoena, 23 Niel Beukes, 24 Uzile Tele.
Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images