Spies to lead Bulls into battle

Pierre Spies will start at No 8 and captain the Bulls against the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Spies takes over the captaincy from Victor Matfield, while replacing Arno Botha at the base of the scrum. Botha has been ruled out for two to three weeks after suffering a pectoral injury in the defeat to the Stormers in the opening round of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The regular skipper has been eased back into action off the bench and will start his first Super Rugby match in almost a year in a side that shows four changes to the one that went down to the Stormers.

Prop Werner Kruger is another who's been ruled out with injury, resulting in a front row reshuffle. Trevor Nyakane has shifted to tighthead prop, while Morné Mellett will take over the No 1 jersey. Adriaan Strauss will continue at hooker despite a low-key performance against the Cape side.

In the only change to the backline, Jesse Kriel will start his first Super Rugby match at fullback in place of Jürgen Visser, who was responsible for the Stormers' opening try.

Coach Frans Ludeke will be looking for a reaction from his side after last week's poor result, but will have to do so without a number of forward personnel.

'There is always pressure and the fact that we have five frontline props out with injury does not make it any easier,' said Ludeke.

'We have good depth though and we back our junior structures, so I am comfortable that we will be a very competitive outfit on Friday.'

Spies has backed his side to bounce back against the Canes, who started their season with a convincing 22-8 win over the Lions at Ellis Park.

'Yes, we have a couple of younger guys in the team, but they are definitely good enough to play here,' he said.

'They bring lots of energy in the mix and we will need a healthy dose of that to compete on Friday against the Hurricanes, who will be full of confidence following their win last weekend.

'We know we were not good enough. We did not play the important moments well and made silly errors that cost us dearly. Everyone is ready to make the step up.'

Bulls – 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23 Jürgen Visser.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images