Vodacom Bulls Head Coach, John Mitchell, named four Springboks in his starting team for their 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby opener against the Hurricanes and named three potential debutants on the bench for the clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Burger Odendaal will lead the team that includes Springboks Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Handré Pollard and Lood de Jager in the starting team, with two more capped players, Adriaan Strauss and Marnitz Boshoff, amongst those who will play off the bench against their New Zealand opponents. Roelof Smit and RG Snyman, who both played for the Springboks against the British Barbarians, are also in the run-on team.
Boshoff will make a first appearance for the Vodacom Bulls in the competition, having last played Super Rugby for the Emirates Lions, as will Johnny Kotze (ex-DHL Stormers), Frans van Wyk (ex-Western Force) and Thembelani Bholi (ex-Southern Kings).
Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier and Divan Rossouw are selected to play at this level for the first time and will make a debut appearance in Vodacom Super Rugby when they take to the field.
Van Staden and Bholi were not in the trimmed squad named by Mitchell a couple of weeks ago, but impressed Mitchell in squad sessions after that.
Mitchell was keen to see the competition starting and his squad competing.
“The wait is finally over for us. We worked hard to get to this point and that work and progress will now be tested against one of the best teams in the competition. It is a tough way to start, but we would not want it any other way,” Mitchell explained.
“We know we play a very decent team, but our squad will be pretty focussed on our own outcomes and how to get there. We worked hard to this point, but we understand that we will not be the complete product yet.”
Mitchell will be in charge of the team for the first time in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, although he has coached teams like the Emirates Lions and Western Force at this level before.
“It remains a fantastic competition and I am happy to be back as a coach. We have a number of objectives we want to achieve in Super Rugby and we can finally start testing our progress against a very capable opponent.”
Vodacom Bulls captain, Burger Odendaal, was pleased to have a home start.
“We love playing at Loftus Versfeld and realise that we owe our loyal supporters a good season. The guys are pretty determined to deliver just that. We face some formidable opponents in the Hurricanes, but this is our home and we are committed to start something special as a group.”
The squad (with Super Rugby caps and points) is: Warrick Gelant (19, 25)*, Travis Ismaiel (28, 40), Jesse Kriel (45, 35)*, Burger Odendaal (c; 33, 15), Johnny Kotze (19, 5), Handré Pollard (31, 293)*, Andre Warner (2, 0), Hanro Liebenberg (18, 15), Thembelani Bholi (16, 5), Roelof Smit (13, 5), Lood de Jager (50, 10)*, RG Snyman (25, 10), Frans van Wyk (19, 5), Jaco Visagie (20, 5), Pierre Schoeman (24, 10). Replacements: Adriaan Strauss (143, 70)*, Lizo Gqoboka (26, 5), Conraad van Vuuren (6, 0), Nic de Jager (18, 15), Marco van Staden (0, 0), Embrose Papier (0, 0), Marnitz Boshoff (29, 235)*, Divan Rossouw (0, 0).
- Adriaan Strauss will extend his South African record as most capped hooker in Super Rugby when he takes to the field for the 144th time.
- Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier and Divan Rossouw will make their first appearance in Vodacom Super Rugby when they take to the field.
- Thembelani Bholi (Southern Kings), Frans van Wyk (Western Force), Marnitz Boshoff (Emirates Lions), Johnny Kotze (DHL Stormers) will all represent the Vodacom Bulls for the first time in Super Rugby after playing for other franchises first.