Injuries, rotational policy and the availability of players from suspension all played a role in Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke's decision to make seven changes to his starting team to face the EP Kings at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. This will be the Vodacom Blue Bulls first home match in the Absa Currie Cup following two away defeats against the Golden Lions and Western Province.
Ludeke decided on first-time starts for Jesse Kriel, William Small-Smith, Tony Jantjies, Rudi Paige and Bongo Mbonambi, while Marcel van der Merwe is moved from loosehead to tighthead with Dean Greyling returning after suspension.
Callie Visagie, JJ Engelbrecht, Jacques Engelbrecht and Jurgen Visser are all rested, while Jacques-Louis Potgieter is injured.
Kriel will start at fullback, Small-Smith at outside centre, Jantjies and Paige will be the new halfback pairing and Mbonambi will wear the number two jersey.
Regular Under-21 pivot Joshua Stander will be amongst the reserves and if called upon, will make his Currie Cup debut.
"We are under pressure following our opening two defeats and that is not the ideal position after only three weeks into a competition," Ludeke admitted.
"This is an experienced squad that have responded under pressure in the past, so I am confident we will deliver a better performance this week. We have been under-achieving away from Loftus and we welcome the chance to have home ground advantage again," the coach said.
Vodacom Blue Bulls captain, Deon Stegmann, is expecting a good effort from the new starters.
"They will bring their own energy and enthusiasm, which is important for the team. The Kings will try to get us off our game and run us off our feet, so it will be important for us to keep our composure, use the ball better and to defend very well. I am confident that we can do that," Stegmann said.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls team is: Jesse Kriel, Akona Ndungane, William Small-Smith, Burger Odendaal, Sampie Mastriet, Tony Jantjies, Rudi Paige, Jono Ross, Jacques du Plessis, Deon Stegmann (c), Grant Hattingh, Paul Willemse, Marcel van der Merwe, Bongi Mbonambi, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Werner Kruger, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Wiaan Liebenburg, Piet van Zyl, Joshua Stander, Ulrich Beyers