PRETORIA – Consistency and continuity have again been the cornerstone for Bulls boss John Mitchell’s team selection ahead of their derby against the Stormers on Saturday at Newlands.
Mitchell has made minor changes to his team with scrumhalf Andre Warner being handed a start ahead of Ivan van Zyl who has been the halfback of choice since the Bulls returned from their tour Down Under.
Mitchell says he is managing the playing time of his halfbacks and still has Junior Springbok Embrose Papier to also consider in giving experience and game time in Super Rugby.
“We’re trying to manage the load. Ivan has had a lot of rugby recently and played very well. We are very fortunate to have three good nines, clearly Embrose is still in development as well.”
“It is about managing load, we still got another three games before the June break and Andre did start at the beginning of the season before the concussion and it is important to give him another opportunity,” said Mitchell.
In the backs, wing Divan Rossouw has been bracketed alongside Travis Ismaiel with Rossouw struggling with a knock to his thigh after the game against the Highlanders.
Mitchell expects Rossouw to be fit to play against the Stormers but said that Ismaiel would start if Rossouw doesn’t get fit in time.
The same applies to the loose trio with much of the mix depending on the recovery of Jason Jenkins from an unspecified injury.
If Jenkins is fit to play then the Bulls will go with the same loose forward combination from last weekend with Thembelani Bholi at number eight, Jenkins at seven and Marco van Staden at openside flank.
If Jenkins fails to recover in time to leave with the team for Cape Town then Bholi will move back to his more familiar position of number seven with Van Staden starting at eighthman and Roelof Smit starting at number six.
But Mitchell is hopeful that both Rossouw and Jenkins will be fit to play.
“First names are the guys with the likelihood of starting and they are the couple of guys with knocks, Jason’s health will determine those selections. Divan, the other health issue, looks likely he will get through,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell says his side won’t change anything to the way they play besides the minor adjustments both sides are likely to make in order to get an edge over the other.
“We’ll stick to the same stuff. The Stormers are a different contest and come with different challenges. We know enough about each other so it will come down to who made the right adjustments to exploit opportunity,” Mitchell said.
The Bulls team is:
Warrick Gelant, Johnny Kotze, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Divan Rossouw/Travis Ismaiel, Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, ThembelaniBholi /Marco van Staden, Jason Jenkins/Thembelani Bholi, Marco van Staden/Roelof Smit, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka
Jaco Visagie, Frans van Wyk/Nqobisiwe Mxoli, Conraad van Vuuren, Hendre Stassen/Roelof Smit, Ivan van Zyl, Manie Libbok, Divan Rossouw/Travis Ismaiel.