CJ Stander, on his way to play in Ireland once Super Rugby concludes this year, may well have played his last match for the Bulls.
Coach Frans Ludeke has named his side to face the Crusaders in Saturday’s qualification game in Christchurch and while all South Africans will, I’m sure, get behind the boys in blue (or pink), few would be all that optimistic about their chances against a side who simply do not lose play-off games at home. The odds, in other words, are firmly in favour of this being the Bulls’ last game of the season, hence Stander unlikely to have too many more chances to pull no that famous blue jersey.
Ludeke has opted to bring Bok lock Flip van der Merwe back into the starting line-up, after he missed out last week due to a hip injury. Juandre Kruger retains his place at 5, with Wilehlm Steenkamp dropping to the bench. With the coach opting for a rather orthodox 4-3 split, it came down to a choice between Stander and Deon Stegmann for the number 19 jersey, with the latter’s experience trumping the former’s versatility. It’s a harsh call indeed, it must be said, because Stander’s form in his maiden Super Rugby campaign has been consistent and impressive.
Pierre Spies leads an outfit that is otherwise unchanged from the one that beat the Lions at Loftus on Saturday.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Mornè Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Juandrè Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Deon Stegmann, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Francois Venter.