Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - The Bulls may only be playing a pre-season friendly against the Cheetahs in Polokwane this weekend, but in many aspects of the game, it is much more important than that.
The Bulls will have their first full outing for their first choice players against a battle-hardened Cheetahs side that has already downed the Stormers and Kings in their more extensive pre-season campaign, and with it will want another scalp as Naka Drotské's team continues to build towards the season.
But for the Bulls there is more than just a result to play for. Having signed a three year deal to play a game in Polokwane before the Super Rugby season begins, they are also very much on a mission to please their fans.
Their captain is Chiliboy Ralepelle, who in Pierre Spies’s absence will get the opportunity to lead the team in his own hometown and also get the opportunity to establish himself as the incumbent hooker and possible future leader of the team.
According to coach Frans Ludeke it was an easy decision to appoint Ralepelle as captain after injuries to Spies and vice-captain Wynand Olivier.
“Pierre’s injury isn’t major, he was taken out as a precaution and should be on the sidelines for between 5-8 days. We’re not really worried about it,” Ludeke said.
“We have a good group of leaders that are there to help Chili. We have confidence in Chili and he comes from Polokwane and we want to give him that confidence to lead the team. He certainly has the ability. It was an easy decision to make for us.”
And while it is still a clash of old rivals, the Bulls coach was not giving anything away, saying this game was more about getting the intensity of a live match going than of being surprised by the opposition.
“At this stage of the season it isn’t about the tactical aspects of the game so much. Both teams need the contact of 80 minutes of rugby,” Ludeke explained.
“Both teams need to be between those four lines. They are a great team and their win over the Stormers showed how good they can be. They’re a Super Rugby team and we need that intensity of play. It is all about all those battles, both teams know each other and nobody will do anything new. There won’t be surprises.”
Preceding the big clash on Saturday, the Bulls and Cheetahs "B" sides will clash at Loftus Versfeld on Friday afternoon, where some great up and coming talent will be on display.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (captain), 1 Dean Greyling.
Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Philip Snyman, 11 Rocco Jansen, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Ashley Johnson, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane.