Cape Town - The Bulls are relying on a few experienced faces in their Super Rugby clash against the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
Coach Nollis Marais has given a start to SP Marais at fullback, while Lappies Labuschagne returns following his ankle injury.
Those two selections alone give the Bulls a more seasoned feel, and Marais says that experience was something he was very mindful of when selecting his side for a match that the Bulls are favourites to win.
"I thought about different combinations and the main thing I
think the team is battling with is experience," Nollis Marais offered.
"We have got a lot of youngsters.
We have 12 guys making their debuts this year in Super Rugby … I don’t know if
there’s any other franchise at the moment like that.
"I thought we should go
with some stability in Jan (Serfontein) and Jesse (Kriel) in midfield, who have played together, and then bring
in a bit of experience at the back."
The coach was explaining his decision to include SP Marais in a move that sees Kriel return to centre after having started last weekend's clash against the Cheetahs in the No 15 jersey.
SP Marais was snapped up by the Bulls last month after he was one of the players to have found himself jobless following the financial woes that have plagued the EP Kings.
"We decided that SP wasn’t on a contract anywhere and he has
experience so we thought we’d get him in," said Nollis Marais.
"He has been doing well and lucky for
us it worked out ... it’s good for us to have
somebody with that experience available."
In the forwards, Labuschagne returns after having come off the bench against the Cheetahs.
"Lappies brings a lot of settlement to the loose forwards," Marais said.
"Last week our 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 had 20 caps combined.
"Now if you bring Lappies
back he brings a bit of a calmness.
"If something happens to Adriaan, he will immediately take over the captaincy. He gives
us more leadership and experience on the field."
The Bulls have lost just once this season in their tournament opener against the Stormers in Cape Town.
Kick-off on Saturday is at 19:15.
15 SP Marais, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Lappies Labuschagne, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane
Substitutes: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Dan Kriel