Vodacom Super Rugby
Ludeke confident in youngsters
Pretoria - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is confident the young centre combination of Johann Sadie and Francois Venter will be able to handle the pressure in their maiden match alongside one another.
“We know the players well enough to know what they can bring to the team," Ludeke said on Tuesday.
"We are confident in the two youngsters, and we are confident that they have the skills set and the ability to help us secure a victory on Friday."
Ludeke on Tuesday included Sadie and former Baby Bok Venter in midfield for their Super Rugby season opener against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Sadie is one of nine players in the match 22 who will turn out for the Bulls for the first time in Super Rugby competition.
Sadie ran out for the Stormers in last year's Super Rugby series, while Venter has played only in the Currie Cup at senior level.
The two are likely to square up against the seasoned Sharks combination of Marius Joubert and Meyer Bosman.
Meanwhile, former EP Kings loose forward Jacques Potgieter will also receive his first starting berth for the Bulls in Super Rugby.
Juandre Kruger has been included in the starting team and CJ Stander, Louis Fouche and JJ Engelbrecht are on the bench. All four will make their Bulls debuts.
Sadie and former Lions players Jano Vermaak and Willie Wepener have played in the franchise competition before, but for other teams.
Otherwise, the team has a familiar look to it, with 11 Springboks in the starting line-up.
Apart from the exodus of Bulls stalwarts like Bakkies Botha, Gary Botha, Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Gurthro Steenkamp and Danie Rossouw, Ludeke said little had changed in their setup.
“I must say there are still a lot of the same faces and we didn’t have to start all over," Ludeke said.
"There are some fresh ideas we’ve introduced in the pre-season, but there are still a lot of old things that feel like they are the Bulls way.
“It is an exciting time and all the players are also looking forward to the start of the season.
"It is a new era but we are building on a solid foundation.”
New Bulls skipper Pierre Spies said the players looked forward to the season.
“We are committed to start a new era at the Bulls and I am pleased with the way every player has responded to that vision," Spies said.
"We are a new team, but share the same values and vision and that will be of big value to us."
Spies said he expected many challenges during the season but they would continue to practice their mantra of focussing on one match at a time.
“I thought to myself, taking over from Victor [Matfield] there might be some expectancy and there has been some pressure," he said.
"But I shrugged that off and decided this is something new and I have to make it my own. The season will take care of itself.
"We are starting something new and building our own legacy as a group and it is going to be an exciting season.”
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jaques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 JJ Engelbrecht