The Vodacom Bulls will travel to the Singapore National Stadium for their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Sunwolves with a number of new faces as well as a new captain in flyhalf Handre Pollard this weekend.
The playmaker takes over from regular captain, Burger Odendaal, who was not considered due to injury, in a side that welcomes back a number of players who saw little action this year. Jamba Ulengo is back at wing, Hanro Liebenberg at no8 and Jannes Kirsten makes a first appearance this season on the side of the scrum.
Ulengo and Kirsten have not played at all in this year’s tournament and Liebenberg’s last action was on 14 April against the Cell C Sharks.
The midfield combination, where Johnny Kotze will partner Jesse Kriel in Odendaal’s absence, is new as well, while Pollard will have Embrose Papier on his inside. Papier last started on 23 March against the Crusaders.
Edgar Marutlulle, Simpiwe Matanzima and Morne Smith will all make first appearances for the season as well, with the latter two also debuting in the competition and Vodacom Bulls colours.
“It is great to be back playing in the tournament again. We had a good break, but also had some time together to sort out elements in our play that lacked consistency,” feels Vodacom Bulls coach, John Mitchell.
“The Sunwolves are always dangerous, especially on home turf and we will have to be very principled in our approach and execution if we want to stay in the contest,” Mitchell said.
Pollard said they need to find their momentum and rhythm as soon as possible. “We have not played together as a team for a while, but that should not be a problem for us. We know each other pretty well by now and even the guys coming back after injury have played in the tournament before. It will be a challenge, as the Sunwolves have shown their competitiveness in the competition, but ultimately the onus will be on us and how badly we want the win. There is still an outside chance, so we cannot afford any mistakes.”
Kick-off is at 13h35 SA time.
The Vodacom Bulls team to face the Sunwolves (with Vodacom Super Rugby caps and points) is: Warrick Gelant (31, 60), Jamba Ulengo (20, 35), Jesse Kriel (58, 55), Johnny Kotze (32, 35), Divan Rossouw (11, 15), Handre Pollard (c; 44, 402), Embrose Papier (6, 0), Hanro Liebenberg (25, 15), Jannes Kirsten 915, 10), Marco van Staden (13, 5), RG Snyman (36, 10), Jason Jenkins (39, 35), Conraad van Vuuren (14, 0), Jaco Visagie (33, 5), Pierre Schoeman (32, 15).
Replacements: Edgar Marutlulle (30, 20), Simphiwe Matanzima (0, 0), Mornay Smith (0, 0), Thembelani Bholi (27, 5), Nic de Jager (26, 20), Andre Warner (12, 15), Manie Libbok (8, 6), Dries Swanepoel (9, 10),
Non-playing replacements: Adriaan Strauss (156, 95), Lian du Toit (0, 0).