CAPE TOWN – Blitzbok star Tim Agaba will make his Super Rugby debut for the Bulls in the massive clash against defending champions Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.
Agaba was named at No 8 by Bulls coach John Mitchell on Wednesday morning SA time as a replacement for Hanro Liebenberg, who moves to blindside flank for Thembelani Bholi, who is surprisingly out of the match-23 after a stellar performance against the Chiefs last week.
Agaba is a powerful ball-carrier who will also provide a lineout option at the back for the Bulls, and his abrasive style and ability to keep the ball alive will come in handy against a Crusaders side smarting from a 25-17 defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin last week.
That was their second loss in a row after they went down to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Another boost for the Bulls is the decision to entrust SA Under-20 star Papier with the No 9 jersey, with incumbent starter André Warner ruled out with concussion.
Papier has provided great impetus off the bench this season, and this is his big chance to stake a claim for a permanent starting berth.
The major absence for Mitchell and the Bulls, though, is outstanding lock RG Snyman, who is already back home with a broken jaw that will keep him out for between four and six weeks.
Jason Jenkins comes in at No 4, with Hendré Stassen the back-up lock on the bench.
“To beat the Crusaders, you need to outwork them. That will not be easy, as they have a tremendous work ethic as a team,” Mitchell said in a statement from Christchurch on Wednesday.
“We are not on this journey to become a better team because it is easy, so we must be prepared to play for all 80 minutes and play every big moment to the best of our ability.”
The Bulls will hope to replicate last week’s first-half performance against the Chiefs for the whole game in Christchurch.
“We need the right attitude as that will drive our efforts. We have a saying that winning together is better than winning alone. This will require a massive team effort, but we can do it,” said captain Burger Odendaal.
Springbok centre Jesse Kriel will earn his 50th Super Rugby cap as well.
15 Warrick Gelant 14 Travis Ismaiel 13 Jesse Kriel 12 Burger Odendaal (captain) 11 Divan Rossouw 10 Handré Pollard 9 Embrose Papier 8 Tim Agaba 7 Hanro Liebenberg 6 Roelof Smit 5 Lood de Jager 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Jaco Visagie 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Bench: 16 Adriaan Strauss 17 Lizo Gqoboka 18 Frans van Wyk 19 Hendré Stassen 20 Marco van Staden 21 Ivan van Zyl 22 Manie Libbok 23 Johnny Kotze.