Pretoria - The Bulls named their touring squad to Australasia for matches against the Blues, Crusaders, Reds and Brumbies.
All four opponents are previous winners of the Super Rugby title.
The 26-man squad include Bulls try-scoring ace, Bjorn Basson, although the wing will only joining the squad in a week’s time.
Basson injured ankle ligaments last weekend and medical advice suggested that he only travel once the swelling of the injury subsides.
The squad includes one new cap in prop Hencus van Wyk. The former Blue Bulls Under-21 player can pack on both sides of the scrum and is match-fit, having played for UP-Tuks in the Varsity Cup.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is hoping that the late departure of the team to New Zealand will help combat jet lag before the first match against the Blues, who have won two on the trot under the guidance of new coach John Kirwan.
“They are certainly playing a very enterprising style of rugby and deserved both their very convincing wins. We have been good and bad in our two matches, so the obvious aim would be to eliminate the errors and produce the good spells for longer periods.”
Ludeke acknowledges the importance of the trip, given the poor record of his side in Auckland, Christchurch, Brisbane and Canberra.
“We will have to pick up points on tour if we want to be around at the business end of the competition. It is true that we have poor records at those venues, but this side has shown in the past that they can set new standards and break down barriers.”
The Bulls kick off their tour against the Blues on March 10, a team they have battled against in the past.
In the 13 matches played between the two sides, the Bulls have only won four, with one draw, but have suffered several heavy defeats as well. In fact, the average score between the sides is 38-25.
Their record against the Crusaders, whom they play on March 16, is slightly better, with five wins out of 14 and an average score of 33-23 to the Canterbury side.
The Bulls have beaten their March 23 opponents, the Reds, in Pretoria often, but battle in Brisbane. The Bulls have won five out of 12 encounters and lead the aggregate scoring 25-20.
The Brumbies have beaten the Bulls eight times in 12 matches, but it has been a close affair in recent years as the 31-23 scoreline suggests. The two teams will clash on March 30.
The Bulls touring squad:
Zane Kirchner, Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, Bjorn Basson, Lionel Mapoe, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Jan Serfontein, Louis Fouchè, Mornè Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Jacques Potgieter, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Juandrè Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Frik Kirsten, Mornè Mellett, Hencus van Wyk, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Willie Wepener