The Bulls will have a new captain for Friday’s Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies, with Duane Vermeulen taking over from Handre Pollard.
Springbok flyhalf Pollard picked up a calf strain during training this week, and he has been sent home.
Pollard was due to miss one tour match as part of the Bok World Cup protocols, but now he will get an extended break as he will sit out the last two games as well – against the Blues in Auckland next Friday, and the Highlanders in Dunedin on 7 June.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus may just be a relieved man as a result, as Pollard is sure to be the first-choice pivot for the Rugby Championship in July.
Apart from Vermeulen leading the Bulls in Canberra, Pollard’s absence gives Manie Libbok a much-needed start at No 10.
The former SA Under-20 star hasn’t had much game time as the Bulls general – his only start came against the Jaguares – but will now have an opportunity to showcase his undoubted talent as a playmaker and goal-kicker.
“He would not be around if he was not good enough, that is for sure,” Bulls coach Pote Human said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Handre is probably the leading 10 in the world at the moment, so to take over from him is not easy.
“But Manie has done well for us when he took to the field this year, and I have the utmost confidence in him this weekend. He is an exciting young talent, and we are looking forward to watching him grow.”
Loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka will earn his 50th cap, and Vermeulen hopes his team can continue with the excellent defence displayed in the 32-17 win over the Rebels last week.
“We defended very well when under severe pressure and the Brumbies are going to test us the same way. They are so skilled and determined, we cannot let our guard down or we will pay the price,” he said.
15 Warrick Gelant 14 Cornal Hendricks 13 Johnny Kotze 12 Burger Odendaal 11 Rosko Specman 10 Manie Libbok 9 Andre Warner 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Hanro Liebenberg 6 Paul Schoeman 5 RG Snyman 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Schalk Brits 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Bench: 16 Jaco Visagie 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Wiehahn Herbst 19 Jannes Kirsten 20 Marco van Staden 21 Embrose Papier 22 JT Jackson 23 Divan Rossouw.@ashfakmohamed