Brenden Nel, SuperSport
Pretoria - Four changes and a positional switch see captain Victor Matfield return from leading the Springboks as the Bulls named their strongest available side to face the Stormers in their Super Rugby match in Cape Town on Saturday.
Matfield returns to the five lock spot and takes over the captaincy after Flip van der Merwe – who led the team in their loss against the Lions before the June break – has been ruled out for six months with torn knee ligaments, according to the supersport.com website.
The Bulls also lost flanker Jacques du Plessis with a broken jaw in a friendly against Namibia in the break, meaning that Grant Willemse will move from lock to eight, Jono Ross moves to six with Jacques Engelbrecht moving to blindside as the team reshuffle their loose trio for the game.
Paul Willemse will move into the spot vacated by Van der Merwe in his second last game for the Bulls and in a game the Bulls must win.
Springbok starter Handre Pollard gets only his third start for the Super Rugby team while 21-year old flank Roelof Smit is on the bench alongside Bok Marcel van der Merwe, the impressive Bongi Mbonambi and one of the best young talents for the Bulls, Marvin Orie, who will cover at lock.
Matfield is adamant the team still has a chance to make the playoffs, despite the fact they haven’t won any away game this season in the tournament.
Matfield believes the Bulls will be up for the game.
"If you put on the Bulls jersey there should be purpose.
"There is a lot of history in the jersey.
"There is still a small chance and we can only control what we can control.
"We can’t be there unless we win our game and that keeps us in the race.
"If we don’t win the game there is nothing for us.
"It is a very important game for us and there is a lot of purpose for us," Matfield said.
The Bulls believe they are fresher and better equipped from the break, and even though they lost Du Plessis and Van der Merwe, reckon they used the time for productive means.
"The break was good for us, all the teams had the same, and you need to make the best of it.
"We had a two week break and we then worked on our setpieces, on the breakdown and other important areas.
"We made small adjustments,” coach Frans Ludeke said.
"We feel we had a good build up to this game and we’re looking forward to the game.
"We think it is a great opportunity for us.
"It is always a battle down there and both teams bring the best out of each other.
"There are no secrets and they had a lot of momentum before the June break.
"But it is important for us to make sure that we end off our last two league games on a high note.
"That means we need to be accurate if we want the result. We’re looking forward to the game.
“They’re always a good side, it doesn’t matter who the names are. We have to go with our plan and what we want to achieve. It will take an accurate effort on the weekend to achieve what we want to achieve.”
15. Jaco Taute, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Sailosi Tagicakibau, 12. Juan de Jongh, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Kurt Coleman, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Schalk Burger (captain), 6. Nizaam Carr, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Michael Rhodes, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Deon Fourie, 1. Alistair Vermaak
Substitutes:16. Tiaan Liebenberg, 17. Sti Sithole, 18. Martin Dreyer, 19. Manuel Carizza, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Louis Schreuder, 22. Peter Grant, 23. Seabelo SenatlaBulls:
15. Jurgen Visser, 14. Akona Ndungane, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jan Serfontein, 11. Bjorn Basson, 10. Handré Pollard, 9. Francois Hougaard, 8. Grant Hattingh, 7. Jacques Engelbrecht, 6. Jono Ross, 5. Victor Matfield (captain), 4. Paul Willemse, 3. Werner Kruger, 2. Callie Visagie, 1. Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16. Bongi Mbonambi, 17. Marcel van der Merwe, 18. Morné Mellett, 19. Marvin Orie, 20. Roelof Smit, 21. Piet van Zyl, 22. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23. William Small-Smith