Pretoria - The Blue Bulls will be without Francois Hougaard and Hanro Liebenberg for their Currie Cup clash against Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday (15:00 kick-off).
The livewire scrumhalf will miss the match due to personal commitments, as his sister is getting married and he was given permission to miss the clash, while Liebenberg is out injured.
Ivan van Zyl will start at scrumhalf in his run-on debut for the Blue Bulls, while the return of Springbok Arno Botha at No 8 will offset the loss of Liebenberg, who will be out for at least a month.
Botha has just returned from injury and will be part of a new loose trio that will also feature regular captain, Lappies Labuschagne, and new starter, Jannes Kirsten, who debuted for the team last weekend from the bench.
Kirsten replaces the injured Roelof Smit in the last of three changes to the starting team from last weekend.
With Smit, Deon Stegmann and Liebenberg all out injured, the recent signing of former Saracens and Maties flank Nick de Jager is bearing fruit, with the player being included on the bench for a possible Currie Cup debut for the log leading Blue Bulls.
Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais also added Corniel Els and Andre Warner to the bench.
Warner comes in for Van Zyl who is starting and Els will take over from Jaco Visagie, who is unavailable due to a personal bereavement.
"Our hands are forced a bit with the injuries amongst our loose forwards, but it is great to have Arno back in action. He is keen to make a statement and I am expecting a big match from him. Griquas showed us how physical they can be when we played them a couple of weeks back, so to have a big and abrasive player like Arno back, comes at just the right time," said Marais.
He is also backing Van Zyl in his starting role.
"Any team will miss Hougie, but Ivan has all the attributes I am looking for from a team perspective. He is quick, understands space and knows how we want to play," continued Marais.
Labuschagne urged his team-mates not to ignore the need to improve every week.
"We are playing a very dangerous team who has beaten us in Kimberley before, so they will have the belief that they can do it again. That said, we are also a squad that approach every game with the necessary respect to the opponents and determination to do our own efforts and the support of our fans justice. We are building momentum nicely, but must be careful not to fall in a hole in Kimberley.”
15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Sandile Ngcobo, 13 Michael van der Spuy, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Ntabeni Dukisa, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 RJ Liebenberg, 7 Jonathan Adendorf, 6 Johan Wessels, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Jaco Nepgen, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Steph Roberts
Substitutes: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Luxolo Koza, 18 Hilton Lobberts, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Rudi van Rooyen, 21 Jonathan Francke, 22 Ruhan Nel
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Nick de Jager, 20 Andre Warner, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Dan Kriel