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    Bulls aim to restore Loftus lustre

    2015-02-26 22:04

    Pretoria - The Bulls will be aiming to put their lacklustre start to the Super Rugby season behind them when they meet the Sharks at Loftus Versveld on Saturday.

    Rudy Paige comes in at scrumhalf for his first start of the season for the Frans Ludeke's men, replacing Piet van Zyl, while the bench sees three changes in the form of Springbok prop Marcel van der Merwe, who is back from injury, while Travis Ismaiel and Tian Schoeman could make their Super Rugby debut if they get game time.

    Ludeke will be hoping the Bulls avoid three home defeats in a row for the first time in 13 years and the pressure may already be telling only three rounds into the competition.

    "We have started poorly, no doubt and we have put ourselves under pressure, even if it is early in the competition," said Ludeke.

    "One cannot really afford to drop any home matches if you have serious title aspirations, so nothing but a win will suffice.

    "We realise the Sharks are one of the best teams in the competition, but we owe it to ourselves and the supporters out there to play to our potential.

    "If we do that, we will be competitive as our squad is certainly good enough."

    The Sharks will welcome back Ryan Kankowski and André Esterhuizen into the starting team, replacing Tera Mtembu and Heimar Williams respectively, both of whom will miss the trip to Pretoria, while on the bench Bok prop Lourens Adriaanse is in line for their first appearance of the season, while outside back Jack Wilson could make his Super Rugby debut, while Fred Zeilinga is bracketed with Lionel Cronjé.

    However, the Sharks have not won in Pretoria since Round 18 of the competition in 2011, when they beat the Bulls 26-23, which was one of their four wins at Loftus out of 11 visits, with one match being drawn.

    Sharks assistant coach Paul Anthony believes that their round two victory over the Lions will serve them in good stead heading into this weekend's clash.

    "What is ideal is that we put in a better performance against the Lions after losing to the Cheetahs," said Anthony.

    "We want our players to be accountable for how they perform.

    "That game we lost, as with the Bulls against the Hurricanes, those were both literally millimetres away from victories.

    "Without a doubt the players felt accountable after the Cheetahs loss.

    "They knew that they weren’t on par, they were disappointed with themselves, but they all lifted their performances markedly and we’re hoping to lift it even more, game after game."

    Kick-off for Saturday's encounter is scheduled for 17:05.



    15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handre Pollard 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Morne Mellett

    Substitutes: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Travis Ismaiel, 23 Jurgen Visser


    15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Waylon Murray, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Renaldo Bothma, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Dale Chadwick

    Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Thomas du Toit, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Marco Wentzel, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Conrad Hoffmann, 22. Fred Zeilinga/Lionel Cronje, 23. Jack Wilson

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