JOHANNESBURG - The Blue Bulls will consider themselves as Currie Cup title contenders after naming a squad that consists of two Springboks and Springbok Sevens players in a team that will be led by former Junior Springboks captain Hanro Liebenberg.
Springbok wing Jamba Ulengo, flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff and Blitzbokke stars Heino Bezuidenhout and Stedman Gans will add beef to the men in blue as they aim to lift their first domestic title in nine years. The team will also include former Blitzbokke Boom Prinsloo, new recruit from the Cheetahs Paul Schoeman and a plethora of players that played Super Rugby and the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
The Bulls will fancy their chances of not only having a good start to the shortened competition but they will see themselves as one of the teams to beat with the likes of Divan Rossouw, Duncan Matthews, Johnny Kotze, Manie Libbok, Andre Warner, Thembelani Bholi, Nic de Jager Hendre Stassen, Frans van Wyk, Edgar Marutlulle and Jaco Visagie who had all featured prominently in Super Rugby for the Pretoria based franchise.
At the same time new Currie Cup coach Pote Human, who takes over the reins from John Mitchell, will also give a handful of youngsters like exciting backs Xolisa Guma, Earll Douwrie, Christopher Hollis and forward Eli Snyman and Johan Grobbelaar an opportunity to stake their claim in senior rugby. Carel du Plessis, Dan Kasende and Viktor Sekekete have also been added to the squad but on a trial basis having missed out on the Bulls warm-up matches.
However, Human will be denied a bulk of his experienced players because of national duty in RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden, Jesse Kriel, Embrose Papier, Handré Pollard and Ivan van Zyl who will be with the Springboks during the upcoming Rugby Championship while Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Burger Odendaal will be playing their rugby in Japan and will only return ahead of next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
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Long term injuries mean Blitzbokke star forward Tim Agaba, Springbok tourists prop Lizo Gqoboka and flank Roelof Smit, Springboks Warrick Gelant and Travis Ismaiel while promising youngsters Nqoba Mxoli and Gerhard Steenekamp will also sit out the rest of the season.
The Bulls have one more warm-up match remaining against the Griffons in Welkom next week Friday before kicking off the competition with two difficult away games against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and the Sharks in Durban. While Human’s men will play three games at Loftus Versfeld against the Golden Lions, Pumas and arch rivals Western Province, they will also face another potential banana peel game against Griquas in Kimberley.
Bulls squad: Divan Rossouw, Earll Douwrie, Duncan Matthews, Jamba Ulengo, Xolisa Guma, Irvin Ali, JT Jackson, Heino Bezuidenhout, Franco Naude, Christopher Hollis, Stedman Gans, Jade Stighling, Johnny Kotze, Marnitz Boshoff, Manie Libbok, Boeta Hamman, Tony Jantjies, Garrick Matthews, Tinus de Beer, Andre Warner, Theo Maree, Josh Allderman, Raegan Oranje, Thembelani Bholi, Denzil Hill, Jano Venter, Abongile Nonkontwana, Hanro Liebenberg (captain), Paul Schoeman, Nic de Jager, Ruan Steenkamp, Boom Prinsloo, Roelof Smit, Ryno Pieterse, Hendre Stassen, Ruben van Heerden, Aston Fortuin, Ruan Nortje, Eli Snyman, Matthys Basson, Frans van Wyk, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Conraad van Vuuren, Madot Mabokela, Mornay Smith, Jaco Visagie, Edgar Marutlulle, Johan Grobbelaar, Corniel Els, Jan-Henning Campher.
Blue Bulls Currie Cup fixtures (times TBC): 17 August - Toyota Free State Cheetahs (Bloemfontein), 25 August - Cell C Sharks (Durban), 1 September - Xerox Golden Lions (Pretoria), 8 September - Tafel Lager Griquas (Kimberley), 14 September - iCOLLEGE Pumas (Pretoria), 13 October - DHL Western Province (Pretoria).