Cape Town – Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi has been rested, but Wandisile Simelane is finally in his preferred outside centre position for the Blue Bulls in Friday’s Currie Cup clash against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (5.05pm kick-off).
Bulls head coach Edgar Marutlulle explained on Wednesday that Nkosi has been given a break after featuring in the last two weeks’ games against the Pumas and Western Province, as well as in the United Rugby Championship (URC) defeats to the Lions and Stormers.
But Marutlulle was able to call on some experienced players to guide several youngsters across the park in an attempt to rejuvenate the battling Bulls.
There is a formidable front row spearheaded by captain Lizo Gqoboka, who will be partnered by hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels and tighthead Robert Hunt.
Jacques du Plessis missed out on URC selection, and will lead the Bulls’ physical onslaught against a highly competitive Cheetahs outfit as the No 4 lock, where he will have a youngster in Reinhardt Ludwig alongside him in the second row, while Muller Uys is a welcome addition at No 8.
There is a mix-and-match look to the backline. Former Cheetahs playmaker Chris Barend Smit will call the shots at flyhalf, with livewire scrumhalf Keagan Johannes getting a much-awaited opportunity in the No 9 jersey.
Simelane and veteran Lionel Mapoe will aim to give the Bulls attack some strike-power in midfield, and there will be a new-look back-three in Franco Knoetze, Quewin Nortjé and Kabelo Mokoena.
“We have gone with a balanced side in terms of experience and youth, giving players an opportunity and giving ourselves the best possible combination to get the result,” Marutlulle said.
“We have also opted to rest some senior players because player management and welfare is important in such a long season as the one ahead.
“We have the best club system in the land and testament to this fact is the bubbling talent that filters through from the Carlton League.
“Congratulations to Franco and Adriaan (Joubert) on the debuts, and they get to share this special day with Juan (van der Westhuizen), and I think all of this is wonderful because it is good to reward our club structures because they continue to help us get to the position of being a dominant franchise in South Africa.
“We look forward to more players making their debuts from the club system right into the professional ranks … this is fantastic for South African rugby.”
Blue Bulls starting XV: 15 Franco Knoetze, 14 Quewin Nortjé, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Lionel Mapoe, 11 Kabelo Mokoena, 10 Chris Barend Smit, 9 Keagan Johannes; 8 Muller Uys, 7 Mihlali Mosi, 6 Cameron Hanekom, 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Lizo Gqoboka (capt). Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Sebastian Lombard, 19 Juan van der Westhuizen, 20 Phumzile Maqondwana, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Adriaan Joubert, 23 Juan Mostert.