Despite tidings of doom and gloom relating to their depth – or lack thereof – Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has managed to name two rather strong line-ups for Saturday’s double-header warm-up against the Lions and Stormers in Polokwane.
While it hasn’t exactly been said, it’s clear that the first selection, to play the Lions, represents the second stringers, while the shadow first team will take on the Stormers later in the day.
That Vodacom Cup-strength side comprises the core of Bulls youth that we’ve grown used to over several seasons, with Handre Pollard seemingly set to start the season in Louis Fouche’s shadow. Piet van Zyl also finds himself with the second stringers, with Francois Hougaard preferred at scrumhalf in the main side. A number of the Currie Cup recruits that came over from the Kings also find themselves in this selection, with Vleis Engelbrecht and David Bulbring starting, while Bandi Maku and Waylon Murray bench. Jacques-Louis Potgieter will also play off the bench for the second-string side.
It’s the first team that will draw most of the attention, though, as Pierre Spies leads a combination not lacking in big names. Bok centres Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht join Bok wingers in Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson to form a potent-looking three-quarter line, although the relative inexperience of Jurgan Visser and Fouche at 15 and ten respectively will counter that. Grant Hattingh and Callie Visagie are the “new” faces – at least from a Super Rugby point of view – in the starting pack, while it is perhaps a bit surprising that Bok tourist Frik Kirsten once again looks to be behind Werner Kruger in the pecking order at tighthead prop.
Blue Bulls (to play the Golden Lions): 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Ulrich Beyers, 11 Jesse Kriel, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Marcel van der Merwe.
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Juan Schoeman, Hencus van Wyk, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Wiaan Liebenberg, Rudi Paige, Tian Schoeman, Waylon Murray, Ryan Nell, Jacques-Louis Potgieter.
Bulls (to play the Stormers): 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Arno Botha, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Marcel van der Merwe, Hencus van Wyk, Jono Ross, Rudi Paige, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers, Travis Ismaiel.