For the third week running the Bulls are unable to field their strongest team after they were dealt a cruel blow with the withdrawal of Springbok lock Bakkies Botha on Friday.
Article courtesy Vata Ngobeni, IOL.
Saturday was meant to be Botha’s first match for the champions, but he has failed to recover from an ankle injury he sustained at the end of last year.
Although Botha was included in the line-up on Wednesday, the medical team had stated that they would make a final call on Botha and Akona Ndungane’s availability on Friday.
After initially making four changes from the team that lost to the Crusaders, coach Frans Ludeke yesterday made late changes, with Danie Rossouw moving from flank to lock to partner Wilhelm Steenkamp, while Deon Stegmann regains his starting place on the side of the scrum.
Springbok loose forward Hilton Lobberts comes on the bench and could make his first appearance for the Bulls in the Super 14 after languishing in the Vodacom Cup to regain his fitness.
Botha’s withdrawal will certainly unsettle the Bulls, who had made much fanfare during the course of this week about Botha’s return.
Ludeke had hoped Botha’s presence would give the team a much- needed mass advantage against the Sharks’ pack, and also gain dominance in lineouts and at the collision.
Furthermore, the Bulls had looked the better of the two teams when Rossouw was shunted to flank to complete an impressive loose trio alongside Springboks Wikus van Heerden and Pedrie Wannenburg.
The Bulls are still looking to turn around their performance, and Botha would have been critical in adding leadership and experience in a team that looked amateurish at the face of a massacre from the Crusaders.
Though jolted by Botha’s withdrawal, the Bulls plans to play a different and direct game this evening, with flyhalf Morne Steyn keeping the backs to the fore, and ensuring Sharks forwards keep running back.
There must also be improvement from the Bulls midfield, who were exposed defensively by the Crusaders, and showed little initiative in attack with the little possession they got.
On the positive side, Ndungane’s return adds experience and will have a calming effect on Zane Kirchner and Danwel Demas, neither of whom have experience at super rugby level.
Ndungane also faces twin brother Odwa, who is in the Sharks starting line-up, on the right wing.
Botha’s withdrawal has also had a ripple effect on the Blue Bulls side, who will face the Wildebeest in the curtain-raiser for the match.
Lobberts was meant to start for the Blue Bulls, but his elevation to the Super 14 team has forced Nico Serfontein to haul Carel Hoffman from the bench and bring in Gerrit-Jan van Velze in Hoffman’s place.
How they line-up
Bulls: Zane Kirchner; Akona Ndungane, JP Nel, Wynand Olivier, Danwel Demas, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez (captain), Pedrie Wannenburg, Wikus van Heerden, Deon Stegmann, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Danie Rossouw, Rayno Gerber, Derick Kuün, Gurthrö Steenkamp. Reserves: James van der Walt, Werner Kruger, Jaco Engels, Hilton Lobberts, Heini Adams, Derick Hougaard, John Mametsa
Sharks: Francois Steyn, Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray, Bradley Barritt, JP Pietersen, Frederic Michalak, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, AJ Venter, Keegan Daniel, Johann Muller (captain), Johan Ackermann, BJ Botha,Skipper Badenhorst, Jannie du Plessis. Reserves: Craig Burden, Tendai Mtawarira, Albert van den Berg, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Adrian Jacobs, Stefan Terblanche. Referee: Mark Lawrence
Touch judges: Willie Roos, Joey Salmans
Television match official: Johan Meuwesen
Kick-off: 7:05pm. TV: SS1Tweet