Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais named a number of young stars in his team to play the Toyota Cheetahs in Harare on Saturday at 3pm in a Super Rugby warm-up match.
The likes of Divan Rossouw, Dan Kriel, Jason Jenkins and Hanro Liebenberg all played age group rugby in 2015 and now get the chance to show their mettle in the senior ranks.
The team will be led by calm and collected lock Marvin Orie, with Springbok scrum half Piet van Zyl deputising. Marais opted for youth, but also picked experienced stalwarts in vital positions.
Prop Werner Kruger has played in more than 100 Vodacom Super Rugby matches and hooker Callie Visagie in more than 50, while former Springbok scrum half Piet van Zyl will provide solid direction from behind the pack of forwards that also include Lizo Gqoboka, the new signing from the EP Kings.
François Brummer, who last played for the Bulls in 2010 and is on loan from the Steval Pumas, was named on the bench. Brummer has played for the Cheetahs in recent years, as did flanker Freddy Ngoza, who played Currie Cup rugby in Bloemfontein last year.
“We had a good camp here in Zimbabwe and I am pretty excited to see this team play,” Marais said yesterday. “Obviously we are not playing the likes of Adriaan Strauss, Handre Pollard, Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel, to name a few, but the guys starting have shown in training that they have the desire and commitment to play for the Vodacom Bulls. I’ve always firmly believed that any member of the squad should be able to start at any time, and we’ll be putting this to the test over the next two weekends.”
The fact that he coached most of the players at age group level did help in preparing for the match, Marais said.
“These guys have played for our junior teams in the recent past and are familiar with our objectives and desired way of play. I hope we can find our rhythm and structure early in the match, as this will help us try out the things we want to do. That said, it is the first match of a long season, so there will be mistakes. That is fine and the guys know they can go out and play.”
Bulls team: Divan Rossouw, Kefentse Mahlo, Dries Swanepoel, Dan Kriel, Jade Stighling, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Freddy Ngoza, Marvin Orie, Jason Jenkins, Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman, Nqoba Mxoli, Irne Herbst, Riekert Hattingh, Ivan van Zyl, Francois Brummer, JT Jackson, Jamba Ulengo.