Springbok midfielders Jesse Kriel and Jan Serfontein will combine for the first time as a centre pairing on Saturday when the Vodacom Bulls play the Emirates Lions in a Vodacom Super Rugby warm-up match in Polokwane.
Kriel played at fullback in his 16 appearances for the Vodacom Bulls so far, but made the Springbok outside centre berth his own later in the 2015 season, while Serfontein had injury issues during last year’s campaign and only played in eight matches.
The youthful combination will play as the midfield paring for the first time, with Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais naming a number of young players in his match day squad.
The likes of Warrick Gelant, Hanro Liebenberg and RG Snyman all played for the Junior Springboks last year, as did Jason Jenkins, who will play off the bench.
Adriaan Strauss will lead the team for the first time since being named captain for the season.
“We do have a good mixture of youth and experience and that is exactly how I prefer it,” Marais said.
“You need some old heads in this competition, but there is no doubt that younger players brings energy and passion to any team. We would like to find the perfect balance in that and that is why this match in Polokwane is important for us. We need to settle on a team, but also on the right combinations going into the Super Rugby competition,” Marais said.
Strauss is the most experienced player in the squad with 118 Super Rugby caps and admits some nervous energy.
“We are keen to make a mark this year and have some very talented players in our system. I am very keen to lead these guys into battle. The Lions are a very experienced and well-drilled team and will test us structures and systems, so this is an ideal way to prepare before the competition kicks off in a couple of weeks. We are also keen to return to Polokwane, where the locals have been fantastic to us in recent visits,” Strauss said.
“The fact that the match will aid a good cause and supply bursaries to students is also satisfying for the squad,” he said.
The squad that will travel to Polokwane is: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, FrancoisBrummer, Rudy Paige, Arno Botha, Hanro Liebenberg, Nic de Jager, Grant Hattingh, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (c), Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, LizoGqoboka, Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, BurgerOdendaal, Werner Kruger, Pierre Schoeman, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling.