PRETORIA – Bulls coach John Mitchell has strengthened his pack of forwards by making two changes ahead of their Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Lizo Gqoboka will make his first start of the season at loosehead prop in place of Pierre Schoeman, who earlier in the week got slapped with a six week ban for biting a Melbourne Rebels player last week.
Lock Jason Jenkins has also been elevated into the starting team from the bench, but in the unfamiliar position of number seven and will join the loose trio after the injury to Roelof Smit.
Smit’s absence from the team has also forced Mitchell to reshuffle his back row, with Thembelani Bholi moving from blindside flank to eighthman, while Marco van Staden will move to openside flank in place of Smit.
Mitchell has also made changes to his bench, with Conraad van Vuuren making his return after serving a six-week suspension for a reckless and late tackle on All Black and Chiefs back Damian McKenzie.
Nic de Jager also makes a return to the side after recovering from a hand injury, while scrumhalf Embrose Papier comes back to the match-23 in place of André Warner.
Travis Ismaiel also returns from injury and will start from the bench.
The Vodacom Bulls spent some time at SuperSport Park, the home of the Multiply Titans, earlier this week.
We look forward to taking hands with our Tshwane brothers as we look to bring both sporting codes closer together. #BullsFamily50K pic.twitter.com/z7SInYq4gt
The Bulls are on a three-match winning streak, and even though they have won their only game against New Zealand opposition at Loftus this year, against the Hurricanes, they remain wary of the threat the Highlanders pose, according to captain Burger Odendaal.
“We are getting things right more and more. There will always be room for improvement, but we made some encouraging steps in our progress to become the best we can be,” inside centre Odendaal said.
“The Highlanders are playing great rugby, and we cannot wait to go out there and test ourselves against them.”
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Divan Rossouw, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Johnny Kotze, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Thembelani Bholi, 7 Jason Jenkins, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Bench: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Frans van Wyk, 18 Conraad van Vuuren, 19 Hendré Stassen, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Travis Ismaiel.