CAPE TOWN – Captain Duane Vermeulen is back from injury for the Bulls, while coach Jake White has made a number of interesting changes to his side for Friday’s Super Rugby Unlocked showdown with the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (7pm kickoff).
Vermeulen missed last week’s 30-23 win over Griquas with a knee problem, but said during an online press conference on Wednesday that the swelling had subsided and that he was ready for action.
But White has opted for a re-jigged backline which he feels can deal with the multiple threats posed by the Cheetahs, who were outstanding in thrashing the Pumas 53-31 last week.
Cornal Hendricks switches from inside to outside centre in place of Stedman Gans, with Clinton Swart coming in at No 12, while Jade Stighling comes in at left wing for David Kriel, who takes over from Travis Ismaiel on the right.
Springbok scrumhalf Embrose Papier gets the nod ahead of Ivan van Zyl, and Johan Grobbelaar will start at hooker in place of Corniel Els.
“I always said Embrose will get some game time. It was never a question that he is sort of the number two. We’ve got two really good halfbacks, and it’s an opportunity for him to get some game time, seeing that he didn’t get to play that much against the Griquas,” White said.
When the former Bok coach was asked if Swart had been brought in to deal with Frans Steyn, he said: “Yeah, I suppose in a way! I know what Frans can offer, and if you give Frans lots of gain-line, they play around him and off him as well. In a lot of ways, it has an influence, but we are not going to get away with playing Stedman Gans and Cornal Hendricks every single week.
“Clinton has trained really well, and comes from Free State, and so knows the stadium well. I also like to try different combinations, and I’m trying Embrose Papier this week as well.
“Maybe moving Cornal to 13 might be a stroke of genius – he’s trained well there, and looks really comfortable running next to a guy like Clinton.”
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Bok prop Lizo Gqoboka will be out for three to four weeks with a calf problem, while wing Kurt-lee Arendse is being rested as a precautionary measure, and is set to be back against the Sharks next week.
Gerhard Steenkamp takes Gqoboka’s place on the bench, while Nizaam Carr returns from a blow to the leg, with Under-21 player Joe van Zyl as the back-up hooker.
The Bulls team is:
15 Gio Aplon 14 David Kriel 13 Cornal Hendricks 12 Clinton Swart 11 Jade Stighling 10 Morné Steyn 9 Embrose Papier 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Arno Botha 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Bench: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Gerhard Steenkamp 18 Mornay Smith 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Ivan van Zyl 22 Chris Smith 23 Stedman Gans.