Stegmann to skipper Bulls

Deon Stegmann returns as captain for the Blue Bulls' crunch clash against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday.

Stegmann missed the loss against the Sharks through suspension after receiving a red card for an elbow in the previous weekend's match against the EP Kings.

His return, in place of Wiaan Liebenburg, is one of six changes to the side that misfired badly at Loftus last weekend. In the only other change among the forwards, Bongi Mbonambi continues his rotation with Callie Visagie at hooker.

The remaining four changes are among the backs, as coach Frans Ludeke looks to keep his side's slim semi-final hopes alive.

There has been a complete overhaul of the back three, where Ulrich Beyers will start in the No 15 jersey ahead of Jesse Kriel, while Akona Ndungane replaces Bjorn Basson, with Sampie Mastriet shifting to the left wing.

Springbok centre JJ Engelbrecht will start in place of the injured William Small-Smith, while Piet van Zyl rotates once again with Rudy Paige.

The Bulls currently find themselves in sixth position on the Currie Cup log, five points off a play-off spot. Ludeke was clear when it came to the mammoth task at hand.

'We cannot afford to lose and even a good win might not be good enough,' he said.

'We managed to get back on track earlier in the season, but allowed ourselves to be sidetracked. We cannot afford it to happen again.'

Blue Bulls – 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann (c), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Dean Greyling.
Subs: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellet, 18 Nicolaas J v Rensburg, 19 Wiaan Liebenberg, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Jesse Kriel.

Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix