Vodacom Blue Bulls Executive of Rugby, John Mitchell, made wholesale changes to his team to face Tafel Lager Griquas in a Currie Cup at Loftus Versfeld on Friday. Only six players who started in the 51-15 defeat to the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit last Friday, will again be in the run-on team. They are prop Lizo Gqoboka, lock Ruben van Heerden, flanker Jannes Kirsten, no8 Nic de Jager, centre JT Jackson and fullback Warrick Gelant.
Gqoboka will form a new front row with Dayan van der Westhuizen and Edgar Marutlulle, who both came off the bench in the Mbombela Stadium, while Van Heerden’s new lock partner is Aston Fortuin, who replaces the injured Abongile Nonkontwana. Fortuin will make his Curie Cup debut for the team.
Shaun Adendorff is the newcomer amongst the loose fowards, replacing the injured Boom Prinsloo.
Mitchell opted for a new halfback combination in Ivan van Zyl and Marnitz Boshoff, replacing Andre Warner and Joshua Stander. Johnny Kotze is promoted from the bench into the starting team and will combine with JT Jackson in the midfield, while two new wings, Rabs Maxwane and Duncan Matthews has been named. Both have recovered from injury.
The match will also see the introduction of Tim Agaba, who will come off the bench for his Vodacom Blue Bulls debut. The former EP Kings player is returning to fifteens after a hugely successful stint with sevens, where he collected a bronze medal at the Olympic Games and the HSBC Sevens World Series trophy with the Blitzboks. He will be joined by fellow Blitzbok, Stedman Gans.
The midfielder also represented the Junior Springboks earlier this year as did Johan Grobbelaar, who is back on the bench after missing out in Nelspruit.
“We are still busy developing as a team. We are adapting to a new playing style and philosophy and I am giving a number of players the opportunity to be exposed to that in a match situation. We have certainly not given up on the season, in fact, these players do have the talent and ability to perform at this level, but it is an extensive overhaul that will take some time,” Mitchell explained.
Nic de Jager, who along with Ruben van Heerden are the only two players who started in all the matches this season, also had a pragmatic approach.
“We already played Griquas in Kimberley and really had to dig deep to beat them. They have since scored a couple of impressive wins, while our results were not good, so this will be a huge challenge. We have to front up though and take responsibility of our performances. There is only one way to rectify ourselves and that is on the field of play,” the captain said.
The team (with Currie Cup caps and points) are: Warrick Gelant (), Duncan Matthews, Johnny Kotze, JT Jackson, Rabs Maxwane, Marnitz Boshoff, Ivan van Zyl, Nic de Jager (c), Jannes Kirsten, Shaun Adendorff, Ruben van Heerden, Aston Fortuin, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Edgar Marutlulle, Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Matthys Basson, Jano Venter, Tim Agaba, Andre Warner, Tony Jantjies/Trinus de Beer, Franco Naude/Stedman Gans.