CAPE TOWN - RUAN Combrinck will make his first start for the Bulls in Friday’s United Rugby Championship clash against Connacht in Galway (8.35pm SA time kickoff).
The former Lions star became a Springbok at wing, but will slot in at fullback in place of David Kriel at The Sportsground.
Combrinck has battled with injuries for a number of months, but made his comeback recently and played off the bench in the 31-3 loss to Leinster last week.
Bulls coach Jake White said on Thursday that the 31-year-old, who has seven Test caps, has the ability to kick with both feet, which would be valuable in the expected wind and rainy conditions in Galway.
At left wing, Stravino Jacobs gets a chance as Madosh Tambwe was not physically able to train earlier in the week, with White saying Tambwe had felt a bit “flat”.
There is an all-new front row too, with Lizo Gqoboka, Joe van Zyl and Jacques van Rooyen getting the nod after limited game time in recent months.
Regular loosehead prop Gerhard Steenekamp has returned to South Africa as he is getting married this weekend, and tighthead Mornay Smith gets a breather on the bench, along with veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis.
Bok scrumhalf Embrose Papier is finally over his injury problems and comes in on the bench for Keagan Johannes, and he will look to make a big impact in the second half.
“We have another tough encounter ahead of us. To face two top Irish sides back-to-back is no easy challenge,” White said.
“Connacht is a strong, well-coached side, and they will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Cardiff in the opening round.
“We have also put the defeat to Leinster behind us, and we look forward to testing ourselves again this week against another quality outfit in the United Rugby Challenge.”
Teams For Galway
Bulls: 15 Ruan Combrinck 14 Cornal Hendricks 13 Lionel Mapoe 12 Harold Vorster 11 Stravino Jacobs 10 Johan Goosen 9 Zak Burger 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Arno Botha 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain) 5 Ruan Nortjé 4 Walt Steenkamp 3 Jacques van Rooyen 2 Joe van Zyl 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Bench: 16 Bismarck du Plessis 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Mornay Smith 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 Jacques du Plessis 21 Embrose Papier 22 Chris Smith 23 Stedman Gans.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran 14 John Porch 13 Tom Farrell 12 Tom Daly 11 Mack Hansen 10 Jack Carty 9 Kieran Marmion 8 Abraham Papali’i 7 Jarrad Butler (captain) 6 Cian Prendergast 5 Ultan Dillane 4 Oisin Dowling 3 Finlay Bealham 2 Dave Heffernan 1 Jordan Duggan.
Bench: 16 Shane Delahunt 17 Matthew Burke 18 Jack Aungier 19 Leva Fifita 20 Conor Oliver 21 Caolin Blade 22 Paul Boyle 23 Sammy Arnold.