Springbok stalwart Duane Vermeulen has recovered from a knee injury and will captain the Bulls against his former team, the Stormers, in Saturday’s Rainbow Cup SA clash at the Cape Town Stadium (6.15pm kickoff).
The 34-year-old No 8 had a “cleaning out” procedure to the knee after the Currie Cup, and missed the Preparation Series as a result.
Bulls boss Jake White was cautious with the rehabilitation programme, and allowed Vermeulen to spend time at home in Cape Town as well.
The Bok star also worked with national team physiotherapist René Naylor as well, and now he is ready to go again.
“Things are going well with his knee now, and he is back and hoping to make an impact. He is obviously trying to work his way into this Lions series, so I am obviously not expecting him to be at his best physically – he has just come back,” White said on Thursday.
“It’s nice to have him around, have him leading the team again, and sharing his knowledge, getting the whole team nice and gelled this weekend.
“He has played a lot in Cape Town and knows the Stormers players well, so to have him back this weekend is obviously a massive boost.”
Another Bok, Trevor Nyakane, is not quite over his rib problem, with White adding that the “bigger picture” of the Lions series also played a role in giving him another week off.
That sees impressive young tighthead Mornay Smith continuing at No 3, with Gerhard Steenekamp also retained at loosehead, with Lizo Gqoboka expected to make an impact off the bench.
Lock Walt Steenkamp, who made a strong contribution as a replacement in the 22-9 win over the Lions last week, has been rewarded with a starting spot in place of youngster Janko Swanepoel.
In the backline, Morné Steyn is back at flyhalf, while regular fullback David Kriel has also been reinstated at No 15.
“Last week certainly proved how vital it is that we continue getting as much competitive rugby under our belts,” White said.
“The players need little motivation for another brutal North-South derby and we are definitely up for the challenge against a solid Stormers outfit.”
15 David Kriel 14 Madosh Tambwe 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Stravino Jacobs 10 Morné Steyn 9 Embrose Papier 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Walt Steenkamp 3 Mornay Smith 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Schalk Erasmus 17 Lizo Gqoboka 18 Jacques van Rooyen 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Zak Burger 22 Chris Smith 23 James Verity-Amm.