Pretoria - Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar has rewarded his players for their gutsy Currie Cup performance against Western Province last weekend, keeping his team mostly unchanged.
"From the start I told the team they would be rewarded for good performances," Pienaar said on Tuesday."So nobody is guaranteed a place in the team as we feel the union and the jersey come first.
"Most of the players did well and it was a 22-man effort against Western Province."
The Bulls opened their campaign with a thrilling 24-24 draw at Newlands, resulting in the core of the team remaining intact for the Griquas game on Friday.
In the only change to the side, Callie Visagie would start as hooker, in place of Willie Wepener, who asked to be released from his contract to take up an immediate offer with the Golden Lions.
Visagie’s spot on the bench would be taken by Bongi Mbonambi, who could make his first appearance in the competition.
"We are very sad about losing Willie, but we have decided not to stand in his way," Pienaar said.
"There is a longer term option for him available at the Golden Lions and it would be wrong of us to deny him that."
Pienaar commended his youthful team for the manner in which they turned around a 12-point deficit, towards the end of the Province match, to earn a draw.
"I am happy with the way they handled the last 20 minutes.
"It could have been a situation like last year, where we were 21 down and the score ballooned a bit.
"But the guys stuck with the structures and that was the most important focus point at half-time."
Newly-appointed Bulls captain Jono Ross, who came out unscathed in his first match in charge, said another tough challenge beckoned against Griquas.
The Kimberley-based side opened their 2013 campaign with a confidence-boosting 32-30 victory away to the Sharks in Durban last Friday.
"Griquas are a really good side and, in the past, people said they were only tough at home, but Saturday proved they can play anywhere," Ross said.
"The trick will be to consistently deliver your best performance every weekend.
"We cannot expect a result if we are not on top of our game against Griquas.
"They will punish us if we are not switched on and at our best.”Teams:
15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter,11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Morné Mellett.
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Marcell van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jean Cook, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies
15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Jaco Nepgen, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Louren Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts
Substitutes: 16 Matthew Dobson, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 RJ Liebenberg, 19 Leon Karemaker, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Rocco Jansen