Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais named Hanro Liebenberg as eighth man in the Vodacom Bulls team taking on the Western Force in Perth on Friday in their tour opener Down Under.
This will be Liebenberg’s first appearance for the Vodacom Bulls in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition since April last year, with Junior Springboks duties and injury interrupting the five caps the 20-year old has earned for the team this far.
Liebenberg comes into the starting line-up as Marais made two changes to the run-on team that played against the Reds at Loftus Versfeld two weeks ago. The no8 takes over from Arno Botha and at scrum half Piet van Zyl will start, with Rudy Paige moving to the bench, where Marais made some tweaks.
Bandise Maku, Dries Swanepoel and Roelof Smith will replace Jaco Visagie, Dan Kriel and Deon Stegmann on the bench respectively.
Marais was happy with the team’s travels and preparations, following a week off since the Reds win.
“We are, in a way, still under the radar and that is a good thing I believe. We are slowly starting to put a proper match together and as a unit is improving, no doubt. A coach cannot ask for more than that. We had soft moments and patches in a couple of matches, but overall, we are starting to find rhythm and some fluency in our game,” Marais said.
Vodacom Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss is only too aware of the fact that the Force have proved a very difficult opponent for the Bulls in Perth.
“Yes, they do have a good record against us here, but that is not something that we see as an important issue. A lot of our guys are first time tourists with the team and just want to go out and enjoy playing for the Vodacom Bulls. We have ambitions in how we want to approach the game and execute our game plan, but know very well that the Force will not make it easy for us. We will have to work very hard for a win, but I can tell you now, this team is prepared to do that.”
The team (with number of Super Caps) is: SP Marais (38), Travis Ismaiel (11), Jesse Kriel (23), Jan Serfontein (43), Bjorn Basson (91), Francois Brummer (12), Piet van Zyl (60), Hanro Liebenberg (5), Jannes Kirsten (7), Lappies Labuschagne (42), RG Snyman (7), Jason Jenkins (7), Marcel van der Merwe (40), Adriaan Strauss (125, c), Trevor Nyakane (65). Replacements: Bandise Maku (53), Lizo Gqoboka (6), Werner Kruger (115), Marvin Orie (4), Roelof Smit (9), Rudy Paige (27), Tian Schoeman (14), Dries Swanepoel (1).
Winger Jamba Ulengo returned to South Africa for personal reason this week, with Bjorn Basson replacing him on tour.