Adriaan Strauss in action against the Hurricanes at Loftus Versveld in February. Photo: Catherine Kotze/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Former Springbok and Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss will become the most capped South African player in Super Rugby when he makes his first start of the season for the Bulls in their much anticipated north south derby against the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Bulls coach John Mitchell hailed Strauss’ longevity and adaptability in Super Rugby in a career that has spanned over 12 years and said that the time was right to start with him.

“It is truly an amazing achievement and you don’t get there without showing resilience and endurance over the years. He has gone through the evolvement of Super Rugby and to get to that you have to become adaptable. He is getting the enjoyment back into his rugby and the time is right to give him a start,” said Mitchell.

The 32-year-old Strauss is one of five changes to the Bulls starting line-up which includes a positional switch for flank Hanro Liebenberg who moves to lock to replace the injured Lood de Jager and will partner Jason Jenkins in the second row.

“Hanro very much fits the profile of a lock. It just made sense for him to move to lock with him having been with us on tour and all knowledge of how we train is superior to guys at home while we were away,” Mitchell added at the team announcement press conference at Loftus.

"I’m also looking for mobility in the pack, he is a good jumper and also can make the calls in the lineouts. There could be a future there for him but let’s see what happens".

Other changes see Thembelani Bholi return to the number seven jersey in place of Liebenberg while Marco van Staden gets his first start at number six in place Roelof Smit who will be on the bench.

Ivan van Zyl will start at scrumhalf in place of Junior Springbok halfback Embrose Papier with the rest of the backline the same as the one that played against the Crusaders last week.

Mitchell believes that the Stormers will provide his outfit a tough challenge considering that the Cape Town based franchise comes off the back of two consecutive victories against the Blues and Queensland Reds but feels that home ground advantage could count in his side’s favour.

“It is very much a home dominated competition. They are comfortable at home after having endured a tough tour. They play with pace and a high tempo and they get into shape quickly as attacking group. They are comfortable in what they are doing and it comes as second nature and they are in a good place.”

Bulls team: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Divan Rossouw, Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Tim Agaba, Thembelani Bholi, Marco van Staden, Hanro Liebenerg, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Frans van Wyk, Lizo Gqoboka, Hendre Stassen, Roelof Smit, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, Johnny Kotze.

IOL Sport

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