Ahead of this Friday’s Vodacom Super Rugby opener for the Vodacom Bulls, DYLAN JACK selects his XV for the clash in Durban.
This will be the first of two derbies to kick off the Bulls’ season as they travel to Newlands to face the Stormers next weekend. Following that, the Bulls will have three successive home games but would want to come away with at least one away win before that to avoid significant pressure by their home fans.
It is the Bulls’ pack that suffered the most during the off-season with four locks in RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Jason Jenkins and Eli Snyman moving overseas, while veterans Schalk Brits and Duane Vermeulen have left a gap in leadership to be felt in the dressing room.
To counter that, the Bulls have brought Juandre Kruger back to Loftus, while experienced loose forward Josh Strauss has returned to the country and could take Vermeulen’s place at No 8.
The Bulls still have a powerful pack, boosted by the return of Springbok props Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka, both of whom can be expected to start on Friday after recovering from injury. Given that another Springbok in Marco van Staden is out with a concussion, it is likely that coach Pote Human will opt for a like-for-like replacement in Ruan Steenkamp, who captained their B side earlier in the month.
Among the backs, Human faces an interesting decision as to his starting halfback pair, with Morne Steyn having started ahead of Manie Libbok in the SuperHero Sunday friendly. However, one could expect Libbok to start this weekend alongside Ivan van Zyl, with Morne Steyn adding some calm and Embrose Papier some energy in the closing stages of the match.
The rest of the team virtually picks itself. Despite the experiment of trying Cornal Hendricks at outside centre, he should shift back to his regular position at wing, with Johnny Kotze going back to the No 13 spot alongside captain Burger Odendaal.
Warrick Gelant is expected to complete the back three with Rosko Specman if he recovers from the concussion he suffered against the Lions. If not, Divan Rossouw would likely take his place at fullback.
Jack’s Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Muller Uys, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images