Cape Town — The Bulls will get a bit of their own medicine as they will face the virtual United Rugby Championship side of the Lions in Saturday’s Currie Cup derby at Loftus Versfeld (5pm kick-off).
But coach Gert Smal, who is back in the saddle after missing last week’s Griquas game with an illness, believes that his young team can prove a point against a star-studded Lions outfit.
Whereas Smal picked just one regular URC player in lock Janko Swanepoel yesterday, Lions mentor Mziwakhe Nkosi had the luxury of calling on all the big guns from Ivan van Rooyen’s URC side in an attempt to end their run of nine consecutive defeats.
It will also be a last hurrah in a Lions jersey on South African soil for the likes of centre Burger Odendaal (Wasps) and possibly his midfield partner Wandisile Simelane (linked with the Bulls), and they would want a fitting farewell by knocking over the Currie Cup log leaders.
Sharks-bound duo Vincent Tshituka and Carlu Sadie were left out, though.
But the Bulls are not entirely a greenhorn outfit, with several players having featured in the URC side this season, such as James Verity-Amm, Stedman Gans and veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for these players. It’s going to be a challenge in different ways, as there are about 27 of ours being not available because of injury, and also the URC team have started preparing for their last game against the Ospreys in Wales (next Friday),” Smal said from Loftus yesterday.
“So, this is the way we wanted to go, and it’s a great opportunity also for these players to show what they have. And the second challenge is that I believe they (the Lions) are bringing their URC team.
“We are also busy with our process in skilling up our front row a little bit more, and it’s nice to have Bismarck there – which is kind of a stable individual in terms of what he can bring to the team, and it’s nice to have him in front of the youngsters.”
The most exciting duel may come from the halfbacks, where exciting Bulls duo Keagan Johannes and Juan Mostert will come up against the in-form Lions URC pair of Morné van den Berg and Jordan Hendrikse.
Smal is also expecting a serious impact from young hardman Reinhardt Ludwig at blindside flank, as well as experienced prop Dylan Smith, who is continuing with his transition into a tighthead.
“They (Johannes and Mostert) are quite exciting, so especially against a (full strength) Lions team, it will be a great test for them. One would like to see how they manage the game over the 80-plus minutes – we believe they are capable of doing it,” Smal said.
“We want to put the best game that we can with the players that we have, and I think the pressure is on them (the Lions). What’s important for us is to play the best that we can play, against whatever opposition comes our way.”
Teams For Loftus Versfeld
Bulls: 15 James Verity-Amm 14 David Kriel 13 Stedman Gans 12 Marco Jansen van Vuren 11 Kabelo Mokoena 10 Juan Mostert 9 Keagan Johannes 8 Muller Uys 7 Reinhardt Ludwig 6 Jaco Labuschagne 5 Janko Swanepoel 4 Raynard Roets 3 Dylan Smith 2 Bismarck du Plessis 1 Lizo Gqoboka (captain).
Bench: 16 Sidney Tobias 17 Cebo Dlamini 18 Francois Kloppers 19 Ruan Delport 20 Stephan Smith 21 Bernard van der Linde 22 Diego Appollis 23 Richard Kriel.
Lions: 15 Quan Horn 14 Stean Pienaar 13 Wandisile Simelane 12 Burger Odendaal (captain) 11 Edwill van der Merwe 10 Jordan Hendrikse 9 Morné van den Berg 8 Francke Horn 7 Ruan Venter 6 Sibusiso Sangweni 5 Reinhard Nothnagel 4 Ruben Schoeman 3 Ruan Dreyer 2 Jaco Visagie 1 Sti Sithole.
Bench: 16 PJ Botha 17 Heiko Pohlman 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye 19 Cal Smid 20 Jarod Cairns 21 Andre Warner 22 Henco van Wyk 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.