The most capped South African Vodacom Super Rugby player ever, Victor Matfield, is back at the helm of the Vodacom Bulls when they take on the Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Matfield, who last captained the Vodacom Bulls in the opening round of the competition, will return at lock following successful knee surgery that kept him out of action for a month to play in his 145th match, replacing Grant Hattingh who drops to the bench.
Also back in the match XV that shows five changes to the run-on side that took the field at DHL Newlands last weekend, is Jan Serfontein, Arno Botha, Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane.
Serfontein is back following a late withdrawal from the DHL Stormers match, whilst Botha, Labuschagne and Nyakane are all promoted off the bench into the starting team.
The Springbok midfielder replaces Burger Odendaal, who drops to the bench in place of Akona Ndungane, whilst Botha swops places with Pierre Spies at the back of the scrum. Nyakane starts in place of Dean Greyling.
Labuschagne replaces Deon Stegmann, who is rested after 10 consecutive starts.
Prop Andrew Beerwinkel could also make his debut as he is named on the bench.
“We are getting into the rhythm to play the type of match we want to play,” Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said when he announced the team in Pretoria on Thursday.
“Our defence structure is good and we are very competitive in every match we play. We need to tweak some aspects of our game though, but I am confident that we are creating a style of play that will make us contenders in the play-off stages of the competition. All said, we need to show up against the Emirates Lions, who have shown their endurance and determination week after week.”
Matfield, who will captain the side for a South African and franchise record 84 times, pointed to the experience of his team.
“We are facing a team who expresses their personality on the field, but we are also a squad that are proud of being the most successful local franchise ever. You are only as good as your last match though and we came up short then. We need a solid performance before we go on tour, so a win is pretty much non-negotiable.”