Bulls start Matfield off bench
Pretoria - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke
will look at his next generation Bulls players to deliver the goods in the Super Rugby season after he named a youthful looking side to face the Cell C Sharks in the season’s opener in Durban on Saturday.
Regular captain Pierre Spies
will lead a team on the field with a number of players on debut and a number of others with only a handful of caps, but will also have the luxury of Victor Matfield
on the bench.
Matfield will join former Sharks AJ Venter
and John Smit in becoming the most capped South African Super Rugby players and will play in his 125th match at this level.
Flank Deon Stegmann
(groin) failed a fitness test on Wednesday and was not considered, which will give Jono Ross
a starting opportunity in the No 6 jersey. His fellow flank, Jacques du Plessis, will play in the No 7 jersey for the first time after an appearance at lock in his Super Rugby debut in 2013.
Springbok scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, who joined from the Cheetahs, will play off the bench, as will Jacques Engelbrecht
, who joined from the Kings.
Ludeke was confident that he picked the right combinations for the opening match.
“We have identified certain areas where we will have to dominate and I think we have the right combinations in place to achieve that. This is going to be a typical South African derby with a lot of focus on the breakdown and to dominate the advantage line,” he predicted.
“We respect the Sharks, but if we are accurate and play our rugby in the right areas of the field, we should get some reward for that. Our focus will be to execute and to make sure that we protect our ball, as the Sharks will be keen to counter whenever we turn over possession.”
On Matfield’s inclusion, Ludeke said: “We all know what Victor is capable of. He showed in training and our friendly match that he is still right up there amongst the best and I am confident that he will make a telling contribution when called upon.”
Bulls captain Pierre Spies
said his side does not mind the ‘underdog’ status in Durban.
“The Sharks should be one of the pre-tournament favourites. They have a lot of Springboks in their team, have loads of experience in the decision-making positions and will be playing in front of a very passionate crowd. This is exactly the type of challenges we like as a team and will go to Durban with a lot of determination and motivation.
“We have some goals to achieve and worked hard to make sure we are ready to compete against any team at any venue. The younger guys in our team bring a lot of energy to our effort and I am pretty pleased to have them in my side, rather than playing against them,” said Spies.
Kick-off at Kings Park is at 19:10 on Saturday.Teams:Sharks:
15 Jurgen Visser
, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 J J Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson
, 10 Louis Fouché, 9 Francois Hougaard
, 8 Pierre Spies
(captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross
, 5 Flip vd Merwe, 4 Paul Willemse
, 3 Werner Kruger
, 2 Callie Visagie
, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi
, 17 Frik Kirsten
, 18 Victor Matfield
, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht
, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Handré Pollard, 22 Ulrich Beyers
, 23 Marcel vd Merwe