Pretoria - Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais made three changes to his starting team to face the Sharks in a Currie Cup clash in Durban on Saturday (18:10 kick-off).
The coach was forced into a change in midfield, with Dan Kriel injured in the match against the EP Kings, but as it happens, Dries Swanepoel is fit again and available for selection.
Swanepoel and Burger Odendaal will combine in the midfield, while Travis Ismaiel will make his first appearance in the competition on the wing. Ismaiel is also back to full fitness and replaces Bjorn Basson.
Up front, the vastly experienced Jacobie Adriaanse will make a first start for the Blue Bulls.
Adriaanse, who played Super Rugby for the Kings in 2016, has played in 61 Currie Cup matches for Boland, the Golden Lions and made his Blue Bulls debut off the bench last weekend.
On the bench, Bandise Maku will take over from Edgar Marutlulle at hooker and Martin Dreyer takes over from Adriaanse on the bench.
Marais had a six-two bench against the Kings, but reverted back to the four-three option for this clash. This means Ulrich Beyers comes into the match-day 22 as utility back and Pierre Schoeman misses out.
Irne Herbst is also replaced by Nic de Jager, who also returned to full fitness.
"We certainly had good moments against the Kings and scored some great tries," Marais said.
"But we were also very loose at times and allowed them to stay in the match much longer than they should. The Sharks have shown their class in the competition already and we will certainly not be allowed such leeway in Durban."
Marais was pleased to see the progress of the side on attack.
"We want to score tries, this is part of our strategy, so the 15 tries scored so far is right up there with the leading teams. We have conceded 15 tries as well, the most in the competition and that is not something we can be proud of. So as much as we want to play ball in hand, we need to work harder when on defence," Marais said.
Blue Bulls captain, Arno Botha, agreed that they need a mind shift on defence. "I don't doubt the ability or desire of our team to defend our tryline, but our communication on defence is letting us down. That said, we worked hard this week and I am confident that we will be a force to be reckoned with in Durban. It is a massive game for us and we want to make a statement."
15 Duncan Matthews, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Nic de Jager, 19 Hanro Liebenberg, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Ulrich Beyers