Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais has rested Springbok regulars Jan Serfontein and Trevor Nyakane, while moving Jesse Kriel to outside centre ahead of this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Toyota Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld.
Marais has rested Serfontein and Nyakane – the latter who was man of the match against the Jaguares – in accordance to the conditioning requirements of the Springboks, as they aren’t allowed to play more than five games in a row without being rested.
Nyakane is replaced by Jacobie Adriaanse, who will earn his 30th Super Rugby cap and start at tighthead for the first time for the Vodacom Bulls. Adriaanse has appeared four times for the Bulls, but all as a substitute.
Serfontein is replaced by Kriel, who moves from fullback across to outside centre, while Warwick Gelant takes his place at the back.
Jason Jenkins starts at lock in the place of RG Snyman, while on the bench there is a return for Jacques Potgieter and a chance for uncapped Franco Naude to make an impression.
“It is the same team, but Jan and Trevor can’t play this week, but they will be back for the Crusaders game. Jacques Potgieter is also back and Tian Schoeman is also right. The rest of the team is the same,” Marais said on selection.
With the Cheetahs game a massive one in the context of the season, the Bulls know they have little option but to win, and will need to get off to a better start than they did in the second round match in Bloemfontein, where they found themselves 24-0 down before they caught their breath.
Marais believes his side are a lot stronger now in countering the Cheetahs attack and is looking forward to the game.
“I can say a lot of things at the moment and we won one out of six games before last week. It is difficult to play away, especially if you play five games away at the beginning. We expected more from the side in the beginning but I don’t think that this is a danger, but only results can change that. At home we are up for it and there are a lot of things we have to take into consideration, apart from travelling. We need to focus on this weekend alone and not look past it.
“I think they are playing good rugby, but they let in a few points in the last 20 minutes. They are a very competitive side, they are a very dangerous side and they create a lot of opportunities to score against you. I don’t think we are the same team that we were in round two and I think we have a different side, a different attitude. Also not playing away, playing at home makes a huge difference. Yes I think we are better off than in round two,” he added.
So what do the Bulls need to do to avoid the same problems they had in Bloemfontein?
“Don’t be behind 24-0,” he laughed “I think in that game they put our setpieces under pressure. And if they put your setpieces under pressure, you don’t get front foot ball. They made the breakdown very quick. We can’t - with 15 minutes left – be 20 points behind and expect to start fighting.
"We almost clawed our way back into the game. With 78 minutes on the board we were on attack and the score was 34-28. We were on attack and we lost the ball. We can’t wait until the last minute, we have to play for the full 80 and we need to make sure of our setpieces and stay in the game for 80 minutes.”
Marais also said while the Chiefs showed they could come back from 24-0 down to beat the Cheetahs, and that they still do have some weaknesses, the Bulls aren’t going to be lulled into a false sense of security.
“I think they were excellent last week for the first 40 minutes, and we know the Chiefs are an excellent side and they play for 80 minutes. They have won a few Super Rugby titles in the last few seasons. Its unfortunate for them but I know Franco will be focused on that. The last 20 minutes and the points they let in. I obviously feel there are points that can be scored against them. “
Vodacom Bulls captain, Adriaan Strauss, is not expecting any favours from the Toyota Cheetahs, whom he represented 97 times in this competition.
"This will be a massive game. They have the belief that they can beat us and to be honest, have the players to do that if we don't pitch. Any South African derby match is huge, and I know how much it means for them to beat the Bulls. We must prepare for a total onslaught and will have to tackle as if our lives depend on it.. But saying that, I can't wait and I know the team feels the same way."
Strauss will play in his 138th match in Super Rugby, a South African record for a hooker.
The Vodacom Bulls team (with Super caps and points) is: 15. Warrick Gelant (11, 5), Travis Ismaiel (24, 40), Jesse Kriel (38, 10), Burger Odendaal (25, 15) Jamba Ulengo (17, 30), Handré Pollard (31, 293), Piet van Zyl (74, 65), Hanro Liebenberg (14, 15), Jannes Kirsten (20, 10), Nick de Jager (11, 5), Lood de Jager (45, 10), Jason Jenkins (20, 15), Jacobie Adriaanse (30, 0), Adriaan Strauss (c, 137, 70), Pierre Schoeman (16, 6). Replacements: Jaco Visagie (12, 0), Lizo Gqoboka (18, 5), Martin Dreyer (6, 0), RG Snyman (19, 10), Jacques Potgieter (59), Rudy Paige (40, 5), Tian Schoeman, Franco Naude (1, 0).