CAPE TOWN - Tuks captain Sango Xamlashe will lead a new-look Bulls side in Saturday’s Currie Cup opener against Western Province, while there is also a welcome return from injury for prop Simphiwe Matanzima.
Outside centre Xamlashe lifted the Varsity Cup trophy a few weeks ago when Tuks beat UCT in the final, and now he will take the step up to senior rugby for the North-South Derby at Loftus Versfeld (4pm kickoff).
At the Bulls team announcement on Thursday, the union stated that an extraordinary 44 players in total could not be considered for the Province showdown – four players (Duane Vermeulen, Marco van Staden, Trevor Nyakane and Morné Steyn) are with the Springboks; 28 are in Italy for the Rainbow Cup final; four are injured, two are at the Blitzboks and six youngsters are part of the Junior Springbok squad.
Twenty-one out of the match-day 23 will be making their Currie Cup debuts, with only Matanzima and left wing Kefentse Mahlo having featured in the competition before.
The only other relatively experienced player is fullback Richard Kriel – younger brother of David – who turned out in the Preparation Cup earlier this year.
With Jake White and his coaching staff in Treviso for Saturday’s Rainbow Cup final against Benetton, Pine Pienaar will stand in as the Bulls head coach against WP, and he will be assisted by Hayden Groepes and Edgar Marutlulle.
“Jake, together with the management team have put in a lot of effort in aligning our structures at Loftus at all levels since his appointment,” Pienaar said on Thursday. “So, we know exactly what is expected of us, and we know what needs to be done.
“This is a talented group, even in the absence of a ton of senior and contracted players. I am truly excited to see these boys step up and use this opportunity to stake a claim.”
15 Richard Kriel 14 Sebastiaan Jobb 13 Sango Xamlashe (captain) 12 Louritz van der Schyff 11 Kefentse Mahlo 10 Jandre Burger 9 Johan Mulder 8 Jaco Bezuidenhout 7 Jaco Labuschagne 6 Henco Beukes 5 Tiaan de Klerk 4 JJ Scheepers 3 Francois Klopper 2 Werner Fourie 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Impact players: 16 Llewelyn Classen 17 Dewald Donald 18 Mhleli Dlamini 19 Adolph Visser 20 Eduan Lubbe 21 Tiaan Fourie 22 Kabelo Mokoena 23 Niel Beukes 24 Uzile Tele