Jake White brings out the big guns for Bulls’ top-of-the-table clash against the Sharks
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JOHANNESBURG – Bulls coach Jake White has selected a powerful and Springbok-laden loose-trio for his team's top-of-the-table clash against the Sharks at Loftus Versveld on Saturday (kick-off 6.15pm).
Former Munster player and twice Test-capped Arno Botha slots in at blindside flank, joining fellow Boks Marco van Staden and captain Duane Vermeulen in the loosies. As a result Elrigh Louw drops down to the bench after two solid performances. Van Staden has been especially impressive in both those matches against the Lions and the Stormers, making a herculean 39 tackles in the process, while Vermeulen is starting to build up a head of steam as he prepares for the British and Irish Lions tour ahead.
Another Springbok, prop Trevor Nyakane, will also make his debut in the Rainbow Cup South Africa after having fully recuperated from a rib injury that kept him on the sidelines for both victories. The 42-Test capped Nyakane will join Lizo Gqoboka on the bench – a powerful unit of props at White's disposal, which could possibly dominate proceedings in the latter stages of the second half when they finally make their appearance.
In every other department, White has kept faith with the players that beat the Stormers in Cape Town a week ago, adding a degree of consistency to his starting XV and matchday squad.
One of the more intriguing battles this weekend will be between the two flyhalves.
In recent weeks, Morne Steyn has been talked up as a possible inclusion in the Boks plans for the BI Lions tour, while his younger counterpart, Curwin Bosch, is also in that framework. At 36-years-old, Steyn's experience far outweighs that of a man 13-years his junior, but the Sharks No 10 is highly motivated this season and is pushing to be in the Bok fold.
He will no doubt come under immense pressure from the Bulls loose-forwards, and a calm and collected performance from Bosch, will go a long way to improve his Test call-up chances.
Bulls Starting XV: David Kriel, Madosh Tambwe, Marco Janse van Vuren, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Embrose Papier, Duane Vermeulen (capt), Arno Botha, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Walt Steenkamp, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp; Replacements: Schalk Erasmus, Lizo Gqoboka, Trevor Nyakane, Janko Swanepoel, Elrigh Louw, Zak Burger, Chris Smith, James Verity-Amm
Sharks Starting XV: Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am (capt), Jeremy Ward, Yaw Penxe, Curwin Bosch, Jaden Hendrikse, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Henco Venter, Siya Kolisi, Reniel Hugo, Ruben van Heerden, Thomas du Toit, Fez Mbatha, Ox Nche; Replacements: Kerron van Vuuren, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Wiehahn Herbst, Le Roux Roets, Phepsi Buthelezi, Sanele Nohamba, Manie Libbok, Werner Kok