Rugby / 1 October 2015, 2:45pm / Jacques van der Westhuyzen
One former Grey College boy has been replaced by another as the Bulls look to keep alive their hopes of finishing second in the Currie Cup points table, and book a home semi-final, when they host the EP Kings at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow.
Jan Serfontein’s call-up to the Springbok World Cup squad – as a replacement for injured captain Jean de Villiers – has opened the door for his former school mate Dries Swanepoel to return to the starting team this weekend. The two formed a devastating midfield partnership at school and earlier in the Currie Cup competition were reunited in the centres for the Bulls.
Now Swanepoel again partners Burger Odendaal in a match the Bulls must win if they’re to give themselves a chance of booking a home play-off. They’re currently on 29 points, the same as Western Province, who’re up against the runaway log leaders, the Lions, at Ellis Park, also tomorrow.
After this weekend’s matches there is only one round left before the semi-finals take place. While Western Province have what many would consider an easy match against the EP Kings, at Newlands, the Bulls face a tricky away trip to face the Pumas in Nelspruit.
“We need to secure a play-off spot and a solid performance against the EP Kings will secure that,” said Bulls coach Nollis Marais. “We have played some good rugby this season, but also had our lapses, so the big challenge will be to perform again as a unit. The Kings are dangerous and play for 80 minutes as they have shown last weekend, so we are going to need all 22 players to deliver on the night.”
Bulls captain Lappies Labuschagne is well aware of the fact this could be his team’s last game at home this season. “We need two very good performances to host the semi-final, so if we slip up, this will be our last home game. We owe our supporters more than that. We trained well and with purpose, so we should be very competitive,” he said.
Bulls hooker Bandise Maku will play his 50th Currie Cup match for the team, after making his debut in 2006 and after stints with the Lions and Eastern Province. The match will be his 73rd overall.
In other team news, former SA U-20 lock RG Snyman will start in the second row for the first time, replacing Marvin Orie, while hooker Corniel Els comes in for Jaco Visagie (ankle) on the bench.
l Meanwhile Cheetahs boss Franco Smith has rung the changes – again – for his team’s match against the Pumas on Saturday.
This, after the side’s whopping defeat at the hands of the Lions last Saturday.
There are no less than seven changes for a game the Bloemfontein-based side must win if they’re to be in with a shout of making the semi-finals next weekend.
Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Francois Hougaard, Arno Botha, Lappies Labuschagne (capt), Deon Stegmann, RG Snyman, Jacques du Plessis, Marcel van der Merwe, Bandise Maku, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Corniel Els, Werner Kruger, Marvin Orie, Ruan Steenkamp, Ivan van Zyl, Louis Fouché, William Small-Smith.
Cheetahs: Clayton Blommetjies, Sergeal Petersen, Francois Venter, Ryno Benjamin, Raymond Rhule, Sias Ebersohn, Shaun Venter, De Wet Kruger, Oupa Mohoje, Gerhard Olivier, Francois Uys (capt), Reniel Hugo, Luan de Bruin, Neil Rautenbach, Teunis Nieuwoudt. Replacements: Chase Morison, BG Uys, Willem Serfontein, Freddy Ngoza, Ruan van Rensburg, Niel Marais, AJ Coertzen. - The Star