Pretoria - Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais opted for a
youthful squad for his Currie Cup coaching debut on Saturday, when the Blue
Bulls take on the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (14:15 kick-off).
He also named former Free State flank, Lappies Labuschagne,
as captain for the season opener. It will be the loose forward’s first match
with the Barberton daisy on his chest, although he has played for the hosts 44
times before he moved to Pretoria.
The Bulls squad is packed with players who represented the
Junior Springboks in recent years, while some seasoned Springboks add the
needed degree of experience.
Making their Currie Cup debuts in the backline for the Blue
Bulls are Warrick Gelant and Travis Ismaiel, with forwards Hanro Liebenberg,
Marvin Orie and Jaco Visagie also running out as Blue Bulls Currie Cup players
for the first time on Saturday.
Among the substitutes, Nqoba Mxoli, RG Snyman, Ivan van Zyl
and Dries Swanepoel will all make a first Currie Cup appearance, should they be
Prop Werner Kruger will play in his 98th match in the
“We have a good blend of youth and experience and I hope we
can find the right mix in our playing style to add to that,” said Marais.
“I am positive that we can mix it up in our approach, and
with a changed mindset we will carry the ball a bit more and use it in a
positive way, but you don’t change things overnight, so I am comfortable in the
knowledge that we have a good back-up plan too.”
The coach will be in charge in the Currie Cup for the first
time, as will his counterpart, Franco Smith.
“We will both be nervous, no doubt, but it will be a
positive nervous as we are keen to get this on the road. I am not too worried
about the critics, it is those who support us that I am very keen not to
Labuschagne warned of the challenge that the Cheetahs will
“Playing the Blue Bulls is always a massive game for the
home side and this time will be no different. We will have to weather the storm
and make sure we focus on those things we believe will make us successful. The
group believe in each other, but the only way to prove that is out there on the
Free State Cheetahs:
15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Clayton Blommetjies, 13 Francois
Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8
Gerhard Olivier, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys (captain), 4
Willem Serfontein, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Neil Rautenbach, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 BG Uys,
19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Fred Zeilinga
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 William
Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois
Hougaard, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (captain), 6 Deon Stegmann,
5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dean
Substitutes: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 RG Snyman,
19 Roelof Smit, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Dries Swanepoel