Lizo Gqoboka will earn a first start in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition this year and Jason Jenkins will start at flank for the first time when the Vodacom Bulls take on the Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Gqoboka came off the bench in all eight matches so far this season, but with the suspension of Pierre Schoeman, now gets a chance to make an impression in the starting pack.
Jenkins will move off the bench to flank in place of injured Roelof Smit, resulting in a re-shuffled loose trio. Marco van Staden moves back from the back of the scrum in his fetcher role, while Thembelani Bholi moves into no8, with Jenkins wearing the no7 shirt for the first time.
Gqoboka’s bench spot is filled by Conrad van Vuuren, who is back from suspension, while Hendre Stassen comes in for Jenkins and could add to his two caps for the Vodacom Bulls. Nic de Jager also makes a return to the side via the bench, replacing Shaun Adendorff. Travis Ismaiel has returned to full match fitness and will start on the bench, replacing Duncan Matthews. Embrose Papier is also back into the match day squad at scrumhalf in place of Andre Warner, who took a knock against the Rebels.
Vodacom Bulls coach, John Mitchell, said he is keen to get to see how the team goes against the Highlanders.
“They have won four of their last five matches against us, so will have some confidence on how to approach this match. They have delivered some strong performances as well during the year. That makes for a proper contest and a very good test on our progress. We are improving and that is nice, but we need to improve week by week.”
Burger Odendaal, who leads the Vodacom Bulls for the seventh time this season, insisted that the squad is growing in ability.
“We are getting things right more and more. There will always be room for improvement, but we made some encouraging steps in our progress to become the best we can be. The Highlanders are playing great rugby and we cannot wait to go out there and test ourselves against them.”
The Vodacom Bulls team (with Vodacom Super Rugby caps and points) is: Warrick Gelant (26, 50), Divan Rossouw (7, 15), Jesse Kriel (53, 45), Burger Odendaal (c; 39, 15), Johnny Kotze (27, 25), Handre Pollard (39, 347), Ivan van Zyl (10, 0), Thembelani Bholi (22, 5), Jason Jenkins (34, 25), Marco van Staden (8, 5), Lood de Jager (57, 15), RG Snyman (31, 10), Trevor Nyakane (87, 15), Adriaan Strauss (151, 95), Lizo Gqoboka (34, 10). Replacements: Jaco Visagie (28, 5), Frans van Wyk (9, 0), Conraad van Vuuren (9, 0), Hendre Stassen (2, 0), Nic de Jager (21/15), Embrose Papier (5, 0), Manie Libbok (5, 2), Travis Ismaiel (33, 50).
- Adriaan Strauss will extend his South African record as most capped Vodacom Super Rugby player (and hooker) to 152 matches.
- The average score for the Vodacom Bulls against the Highlanders is 24-29.