Pretoria - Bulls coach John Mitchell has named four Springboks in his starting team for their 2018 Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes and named three potential debutants on the bench for the clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (17:15 kick-off).
Burger Odendaal will lead the team that includes Springboks Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard and Lood de Jager in the starting team, with two more Springboks, Adriaan Strauss and Marnitz Boshoff, amongst those who will play off the bench against their Kiwi foes.
Roelof Smit and RG Snyman, who both played a non-Test for the Springboks against the Barbarians, are also in the run-on team.
Boshoff will make a first appearance for the Bulls in the competition, having last played Super Rugby for the Lions, as will Johnny Kotze (ex-Stormers), Frans van Wyk (ex-Western Force) and Thembelani Bholi (ex-Southern Kings).
Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier and Divan Rossouw are selected to play at this level for the first time and will make a debut appearance in Super Rugby when they take to the field.
Van Staden and Bholi were not in the trimmed squad named by Mitchell a couple of weeks ago, but impressed Mitchell in squad sessions after that.
Mitchell was keen to see the competition starting and his squad competing.
“The wait is finally over for us. We worked hard to get to this point and that work and progress will now be tested against one of the best teams in the competition. It is a tough way to start, but we would not want it any other way,” Mitchell told the Bulls’ official website.
“We know we play a very decent team, but our squad will be pretty focussed on our own outcomes and how to get there. We worked hard to this point, but we understand that we will not be the complete product yet.”
Mitchell will be in charge of the team for the first time in the Super Rugby competition, although he has coached teams like the Lions and Western Force at this level before.
“It remains a fantastic competition and I am happy to be back as a coach. We have a number of objectives we want to achieve in Super Rugby and we can finally start testing our progress against a very capable opponent.”
Bulls captain Odendaal was pleased to have a home start.
“We love playing at Loftus Versfeld and realise that we owe our loyal supporters a good season. The guys are pretty determined to deliver just that. We face some formidable opponents in the Hurricanes, but this is our home and we are committed to start something special as a group.”
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Nic de Jager, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Divan Rossouw
15 Matt Proctor, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Ihaia West, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields (captain), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Ricctelli, 1 Toby Smith
Substitutes: 16 James O'Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ben Lam