Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke handed flanker Roelof Smit a first time starting berth in announcing his team to play the Melbourne Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Friday. Smit debuted for the Vodacom Bulls from the bench against the DHL Stormers last weekend and now start in the number six jersey in one of seven changes to the starting line-up.
Jurgen Visser is back at fullback, having recovered from an abductor strain that kept him out of the Newlands clash and replace Ulrich Beyers. Francois Hougaard will play on the wing, replacing the injured Akona Ndungane, with Piet van Zyl starting at scrumhalf. With Grant Hattingh injured, Jacques Engelbrecht will move back to no8, Jono Ross moves to 7 and Smit slots in at 6.
Ludeke also changed his front row. Marcel van der Merwe will start at tighthead, Bandise Maku gets a rare start at hooker and Mornè Mellett will start at loose head for the first time this season.
They replace Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie and Dean Greyling, who will all start off the bench. Ludeke also included Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg on the bench and should he get a run, the Junior Springbok lock will make his Vodacom Bulls debut. Jesse Kriel is also on the bench for the first time at this level.
"We have nothing to lose, so decided to give some youngsters a run. Injury also played a role in team selection. We want to end the season well and although our final log position will not be where we wanted, there is no reason why we cannot close out our campaign with a fine performance," Ludeke said.
The Vodacom Bulls team to play the Rebels is: Jurgen Visser, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Piet van Zyl, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jono Ross, Roelof Smit, Victor Matfield, Paul Willemse, Marcel van der Merwe, Bandise Maku, Morné Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Dean Greyling, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie, Jesse Kriel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, William-Small Smith.
•Frans Ludeke will become the most experienced coach at Vodacom Super Rugby level and will be in charge of a Vodacom Super Rugby team for the 132nd time. This include 108 with the Vodacom Bulls (2008-2014) and 23 with the Cats (2002; 2006).
•Victor Matfield will captain the team for the 82nd time, also a record for a Vodacom Super Rugby captain. His 138th appearance is also a South African record in the competition and his 130th appearance for the Vodacom Bulls a franchise record.