Pretoria - Bulls coach Nollis Marais made wholesale changes to his team to face the Sunwolves at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, naming different combinations in his back three, midfield, half-backs, loose trio, lock pairing and front row.
The Bulls will play their first match at home in this year’s Super Rugby tournament and will host the visitors from the Far East with a much changed side from the one that lost to the Cheetahs two weeks ago.
Amongst the backs, the return of Springbok midfielder Jan Serfontein is the most significant. He will play his 49th Super Rugby match, but only his first in the season, after a delayed start due to injury. He replaces Dries Swanepoel in the midfield.
Warrick Gelant will also earn a first start for the year in place of Jesse Kriel, who will start off the bench, while Piet van Zyl will start at scrumhalf for the first time this season. Ivan van Zyl will deputise for his namesake in his debut for the season, with Rudy Paige being rested.
Up front, Lood de Jager has recovered from the concussion he sustained in the opening weekend of the season, and will start at lock with Jason Jenkins. RG Snyman reverts to the bench.
Flank Renaldo Bothma is also promoted to a starting berth in place of Jacques Potgieter, who is rested due to concussion, while props Pierre Schoeman and Lizo Gqoboka again trade jerseys, with the latter playing off the bench.
Edgar Marutlulle will make a first start at hooker in Super Rugby for the Bulls after playing off the bench in the first two weeks. He replaces Jaco Visagie, who drops out of the match-day squad.
Two regulars from last season will make a first appearance off the bench. Adriaan Strauss and Jannes Kirsten recovered from injury and take over from Marutllule and Ruan Steenkamp respectively.
Steenkamp will start at No 6 in place of Nick de Jager, who drops out of the match-day squad.
According to Marais, the return of so many fit players allowed him to make wholesale changes.
"The likes of Jan will be keen to get going, while those who are starting for the first time this season will enjoy the extended time on the field. I believe this will freshen up our effort, which did not deliver the right results for us in the opening two matches. The Sunwolves were unlucky against the Cheetahs and gave the guys in Bloem a bigger fright than we did. We cannot underestimate them and there can be no excuses, but for us to deliver a good performance.”
Bulls captain, Handre Pollard, welcomed the fact that they will be playing at Loftus Versfeld for the first time this season.
"This is our home and we cannot slip up here, especially if we want to bring the crowds back to Loftus. We had a slow start, but I am confident that we will pick up the pace from here and will be running with the leading pack soon,” said Pollard.
“There was good energy in training the last couple of days and I am keen to see how the guys perform Friday night."
Friday’s game is scheduled for 19:00.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Jannes Kirsten, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jesse Kriel