Pretoria - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says the Pretoria-based franchise did not use the squad system to its fullest in last year’s competition and they would look to make better use of their depth this season.
Ludeke will have his first opportunity to test the strength of the less experienced and fringe players for this purpose when they play the Lions in their first warm-up match in the Gauteng Challenge at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
“It is important to have a group, we didn’t really use our squad well last year and we would like to improve on that,” Ludeke said at the team announcement in Pretoria on Wednesday.
“It is a long competition and it is important that there are 28 to 32 players that can put their hands up and that is the goal with this weekend.”
Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann will lead a youthful team which include five 2012 Junior Springbok gold medallists in the match-day 22.
The veteran flanker makes a welcome comeback to the playing field after being side-lined with injury for most of the 2012 season and will lead a team that combines youth and experience and some new faces.
Junior Springboks Travis Ismaiel, Jan Serfontein, and Paul Willemse will be in the run-on side, while Wiaan Liebenberg and Handré Pollard could make an impact off the bench.
“This is exciting times for us,” said Ludeke.
“We are at the start of a new season and we cannot wait to get going.
We have big plans and big dreams for 2013 and are keen to start. The Lions have played twice now and have that advantage, but we have worked hard in training and will give it a full go.”
The majority of the team is unlikely to be part of the core that will play in this year’s Super Rugby season, but Ludeke said the players would be part of their greater Super Rugby squad.
“Everyone is in with a chance to play in Super Rugby and these players could have an opportunity to play in the competition,” he said.
Ludeke said it was important to get the season off to a good start as they did last year but they would have to rely more on the squad system when mental fatigue kicked in midway through the season.
“We’ll see when a player is overplayed, when there is mental fatigue, and some niggling injuries then you won’t have any options but to rest a player,” Ludeke said.
The match will also see Lionel Mapoe, on loan from the Lions, start at outside centre against his teammates from the other side of the Jukskei River.
The Bulls were, however, still sweating over the availability of flyhalf Louis Fouché, who was nursing an injury.
This could open the door for teenage flyhalf Pollard to make his debut for the team with Tiaan Snyman moving into the 22.
Ludeke said the team needed to be competitive constantly throughout the season if they wanted to claim the Super Rugby title for the fourth time.
15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Tiaan Schoeman, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Deon Stegmann (captain), 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Juan Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Hencus van Wyk, 18 Wiaan Liebenberg, 19 Cornell Hess, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Jacques du Plessis