PRETORIA – It wasn’t going to take long for Blue Bulls director of rugby John Mitchell to get fed up with the substandard performances by his team and start making changes.
And he rang them in, all nine of them, to the team to play against Griquas in the Currie Cup on Friday night at Loftus Versfeld.
Springbok flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff makes his first start since returning to Loftus from Irish club Connacht, while the Bulls will sport a new front row, with hooker Edgar Marutlulle and tighthead prop Dayan van der Westhuizen getting their first starts of the season, with Lizo Gqoboka being the sole survivor from last weekend.
Aston Fortuin also gets his first start in Currie Cup rugby in the second row and will partner Ruben van Heerden, with Shaun Adendorff coming in at number six flank to play alongside Jannes Kirsten and Nic de Jager.
Ivan van Zyl will start ahead of André Warner at scrumhalf, with Johnny Kotze getting the nod to start at outside centre and wings Duncan Matthews and Sibahle Maxwane also handed starting berths.
Some of the changes were brought about by Mitchell wanting to afford all the players in the squad an opportunity to stake their claim in the team.
But most were as a consequence to what transpired on the field at Mbombela Stadium last Friday when the Bulls were embarrassed 51-15 by the Pumas.
On the evidence of that loss in Nelspruit and the three prior, Mitchell has probably seen enough.
Apart from the obviously porous defence in the mauls and a clear lack of cohesion, the Bulls’ biggest problem now has become their discipline, or rather lack thereof, and this is where Mitchell draws the line.
What added insult to injury in the defeat against the Pumas were the three yellow cards they conceded, meaning that they played for almost 30 minutes with one less player than the opposition.
Mitchell did not mince his words during Wednesday’s team announcement.
“There will certainly be consequences for players going forward in terms of not being reliable in that area (discipline), likewise in core skill. All those things are changing. We are in transition and one can’t be a miracle worker in terms of changing bad habits within seven days, but certainly over a period of time, we will get there,” Mitchell said.
“I’m looking at giving people opportunities as well. I want to give hope and look at the depth of the squad as well, and that’s the only way I’m going to get to know who is reliable and who isn’t moving forward.
“Obviously with an eye on the short-term and long-term, it is important that I do present the players opportunities.
“We are also managing some guys and their well-being, and trying to regenerate them because they have played a lot of rugby.”
Blue Bulls Team
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Duncan Matthews, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 JT Jackson, 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Nic de Jager (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Shaun Adendorff, 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Aston Fortuin, 3 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Bench: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Matthys Basson, 18 Jano Venter, 19 Tim Agaba, 20 André Warner, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Stedman Gans.