Pretoria - It wasn’t a surprise when the Vodacom Bulls started their Monday practice without many of their regular Springbok stars. What was a surprise was De Wet Barry’s presence at the stadium.
Barry received a call-up on Sunday, the clearest indication that the Bulls intend sending a second string side to Newlands for the final match of the season against the Stormers.
With the Stormers desperate for a victory to get them firmly in the semis, the Bulls could argue that they are technically doing South Africa a favour by trying to help ensure two teams in the semis. But there is a tinge of expectancy with the team that will go down to Newlands this weekend.
Barry’s arrival is one thing, but the rest of the team has more talent than most Super 14 franchises and could well cause a massive surprise this weekend if the Stormers are not at their best.
Barry’s inclusion will bolster the defensive effort in the midfield, and the Stormers can look forward to some of the punishment he used to deal out in the same jerseys at Newlands several years before.
The Bulls were still meeting to finalise their squad, and will only confirm the changes later in the week but the team to arrive at Newlands will look very different to the one that beat the Crusaders last weekend.
If the practice session is anything to go by, this may be very close to what the Bulls will field in the Currie Cup this season, and will be a massive opportunity for some of the youngsters involved. At least 13 stars will put their feet up this weekend and watch their teammates take on the old foe.
The Bulls are set to rest the likes of captain Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Morné Steyn, Zane Kirchner, Francois Hougaard, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Gary Botha, Werner Kruger, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Wynand Olivier and Pierre Spies. In addition to this Gerhard van der Heever will not be allowed to play after being suspended for a tip-tackle.
Barry looks set to line up in the midfield with Stephan Dippenaar with Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Heini Adams the likely halfback pair. Jaco van der Westhuyzen has recovered from his calf strain and will be back in the side, probably at wing.
In the front row, Bees Roux and Bandise Maku can move up off the bench, while Flip van der Merwe will join Bakkies Botha in the second row and Pedrie Wannenburg, Derick Kuün both will play.
The Bulls have decided to reward several of their Vodacom Cup stars that won the title last weekend – with Chiliboy Ralepelle leading a group of players that includes promising youngsters Dean Greyling, Bok Sevens flyer Deon Helberg, SA under-21 captain Gert-Jan Van Velze, Okkie Kruger, Ruan Snyman and drop-kick hero Francois Brummer at the practice.
Also included in that group are two stalwarts – prop Jaco Engels and Tiger Mangweni, who are also to feature in the Newlands game.
Either way, the Bulls side that arrives in Cape Town will be hungry and keen to impress. Should the Stormers have believed a B side would be an easy game, this group will make them think again.