JOHANNESBURG – Bulls captain Lood de Jager believes their Super Rugby opener against the Stormers at Loftus on Saturday could be compared to a Test-match with both teams loaded with Springboks.
The home team will take to the field with a starting line-up consisting of 10 Boks including new recruits Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits.
“There will be world-class players on that field on Saturday so there will definitely be a Test-match atmosphere and we are really looking forward to it,” De Jager said yesterday.
It is a welcome return for Vermeulen to Super Rugby, who last featured in the competition for the Stormers back in 2015.
Brits will also go up against his former franchise making his return to the competition for the first time in seven years.
It will also be Pote Human’s first match in charge of the Bulls in Super Rugby, with the mentor sharing the players’ enthusiasm for one of the great derbies in South African rugby.
“When you play the Stormers at Loftus, there is no motivation for any player, I mean it is a dream to play against them here or in Cape Town,” Human said. “The north-south derby will never change. It will be awesome and the guys are really looking forward to the game.”
The Bulls backline consisting of players of the calibre of Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard and Embrose Papier should have any rugby fan rubbing their hands with glee.
But De Jager believed the match will be decided by their pack that is equally well stocked with Boks.
“We identified that this match will be a set-piece battle - like most South African derbies are - South African teams are known to be good with set pieces,” De Jager said. “We know it is going to be a very good scrum and we need to be up for that and have a plan for that.
“Then in the lineouts it is going to be interesting where they have very good jumpers, while we also have very good lineout forwards so it is going to be a big set-piece battle.”
Human named Corniel Els, Simphiwe Matanzima, Eli Snyman and Dylan Sage on the bench with the trio set to make their debuts.
The Bulls coach also selected Papier ahead of fellow Bok Ivan van Zyl at scrumhalf, with form dictating the selection.
“I think Emmy (Papier) proved in the warm-up games that he is really in form and that is why we went for him and he was also the last Bok scrumhalf that really played well,” Human said.
The Bulls team is:
Warrick Gelant, Johnny Kotze, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Rosko Specman, Handré Pollard, Embrose Papier, Duane Vermeulen, Hanro Liebenberg, Ruan Steenkamp, Lood de Jager (c), Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: Corniel Els, Simphiwe Matanzima, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Eli Snyman, Thembelani Bholi, Ivan van Zyl, Manie Libbok, Dylan Sage@ockertde