Blue Bulls director of rugby John Mitchell. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

PRETORIA - The Bulls and Stormers may not get their chance to play out their Super Rugby warm-up blockbuster in Los Angeles but the two bitter rivals will still have an opportunity to face each other at Boland Park in Wellington on February 3.

What was scheduled to be one of the best acts before the Super Rugby season commences next month, has been brought to an abrupt halt by issues regarding transfers and logistics according to a statement sent out by the Blue Bulls Company late on Tuesday evening.

While the Bulls and Stormers will now play out their clash on South African soil, it will ensure that the men from the capital are battle hardened for the upcoming season under new coach John Mitchell.

With the Bulls having a bye in the first round of Super Rugby, the four warm-up matches will be critical for Mitchell to have evaluation of his stocks while also giving all the players in his squad an opportunity to fight for a place in the starting team.

The Bulls will kick-off their pre-season programme with a tough encounter against the Sharks at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on 27 January with another team playing against the Lions at Ellis Park on the same day.

After playing against the Stormers in Wellington and the beginning of next month, the Bulls will conclude their pre-season matches with a clash against the Jaguares from Argentina on 10 February.

These warm-up games have become even more important for Mitchell as his stocks run low at scrumhalf with Springbok Rudy Paige having recently undergone a groin operation and will return from injury at the end of February while Ivan van Zyl is also on the long term injury list leaving Andre Warner, Ambrose Papier and Theo Maree the only players available.

Having lost the services of Springbok scrumhalf Piet van Zyl and former Bok flank Arno Botha to English club London Irish, Paige is the frontrunner for the starting berth at number nine but it is becoming apparent that Warner and Papier will have to battle it out  ahead of the Bulls first two matches against the Hurricanes and Lions at Loftus Versfeld.

Mitchell will also be encouraged by the return to fitness of loose forwards Marco Stassen, Jannes Kirsten and Shaun Adendorf while Springbok centre Jesse Kriel and Dries Swanepoel are also back in training from injury to beef up the midfield.

IOL Sport

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