Pretoria - Flank Roelof Smit will make a first Currie Cup Premier Division start for the Blue Bulls in 2016 when they tackle Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday (19:00 kick-off).
Smit, who played off the bench against the Golden Lions and Pumas in the last two weeks, will pack down at the side of the scrum for this crucial clash in place of Ruan Steenkamp, who is out injured.
Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais made two rotational changes in the pack as well. Jaco Visagie will start at hooker, swapping places with Bandise Maku, who moves to the bench, while Pierre Schoeman rotates with Lizo Gqoboka at loosehead.
The return to fitness of Jannes Kirsten and Jason Jenkins will see both playing off the bench.
Kirsten fills the spot vacated by Smit and Jenkins replaces Irne Herbst on the bench. Amongst the backs replacements, Bjorn Basson is bracketed with Divan Rossouw, but will play if declared fit.
Marais urged his troops to deliver their best performance of the season.
"We will have to be play our best game of the year. Griquas is playing awesome rugby at the moment and is such a well-balanced team. They will be difficult to break down, so we will need a first class effort to keep them out."
The coach welcomes Smit as a starter.
"Roelof has certainly added value coming off the bench, and although it is sad that Ruan Steenkamp misses out, I know Roelof will not disappoint."
Hanro Liebenberg, who will captain the team for the second time, stressed the importance of keeping the momentum going.
"We have started to play good rugby over the last two weeks where the good things we do overshadowed the bad ones. That is what we train for, to improve every week and become a better team. Griquas will bash away at any cracks we show, so we need to dominate them, hopefully with the support of the home crowd at Loftus."
15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Nic de Jager, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Jason Jenkins, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Joshua Stander, 22 Bjorn Basson/Divan Rossouw