Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made seven changes to his starting side to play the Blues in Auckland on Sunday in the first of their four match tour.
The starting team shows changes at wing, centre, scrumhalf, loose forward, prop and hooker from the one that had the bonus point win over the Western Force last weekend, with injuries and the return to fitness the main reasons for that.
Injured winger Bjorn Basson is replaced by Lionel Mapoe, who moves from outside centre, where a fit again JJ Engelbrecht returns to the side. Akona Ndungane is also back in action and will play in his first match of the season in place of Sampie Mastriet.
Jano Vermaak also earns a first start this season in place of Francois Hougaard, with the latter playing off the bench. Hougaard is struggling with an ankle strain.
Deon Stegmann returns to the fray having recovered from his hamstring strain and replaces Jacques Potgieter who moves to the bench. Potgieter takes the place of Jean Cook, who is not in the touring squad.
With both Werner Kruger and Chiliboy Ralepelle having small niggles, Ludeke opted to start with Frik Kirsten and Willie Wepener in the front row.
Ralepelle and Kruger will be joined on the bench by Super Rugby debutant, Jürgen Visser. The versatile Blue Bulls player finally gets a chance to play Super Rugby following a stellar Absa Currie Cup season last year.
“We have talked about our depth and this is a great opportunity to really test that,” Ludeke said of his team selection. “All the guys who start for the first time this season will be very keen and it will also give some respite to those who are feeling a bit sore after the first couple of matches.”
The Blues will be a tough opponent, Ludeke said.
“Both their wins were well deserved. They play very enterprising rugby. We have been up and down and our aim will be to produce the good spells for longer. We also know we will have to pick up points on tour if we want to be around at the business end of the competition”.
The Vodacom Bulls team is (with Super Caps): Zane Kirchner (73), Akona Ndungane (84), JJ Engelbrecht (18), Wynand Olivier(105), Lionel Mapoe (30), Mornè Steyn (108), Jano Vermaak (90), Pierre Spies (91, c), Arno Botha (12), Deon Stegmann (61), Juandrè Kruger (19), Flip van der Merwe (50), Frik Kirsten (17), Willie Wepener (55), Mornè Mellett (2). Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle (54), Werner Kruger (77), Grant Hattingh (11), Jacques Potgieter (14), Francois Hougaard (47), Louis Fouché (12), Jürgen Visser (0).
•Mornè Steyn is South Africa’s leading points’ scorer in Vodacom Super Rugby and could extend any of the following records: 1242 points; 213 conversions; 228 penalties and 23 drop goals.
•Wynand Olivier will play in his 106th Super Rugby match, making his the country’s most experienced midfielder.
•Jano Vermaak will make only his second start since joining the Vodacom Bulls in 2012. His last start was against the Blues on March 10, 2012.
•Willie Wepener will make his first start for the Vodacom Bulls since joining them in 2012. All of his 15 matches since have been off the bench.
•Frik Kirsten will make his first ever start for the Vodacom Bulls in his 19th appearances for the team.