Spies back to lead Bulls
Springboks number eight Pierre Spies will lead an experienced Bulls team against the Cheetahs in Saturday's warm-up fixture in Polokwane.
The Bulls will take to the field with a team where only two players - Full-back Jürgen Visser and loosehead prop Mornè Mellett - have no Super Rugby experience.
Coach Frans Ludeke made wholesale changes from the side that beat the Lions in Orlando last weekend, with only Visser remaining in the starting line-up.
Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak and Lionel Mapoe, who all started against the Lions, will play off the bench this weekend.
The changed line-up will see a first appearance this season for almost all selected, something that was part of Ludeke’s planning.
"This will mean that everyone in the squad will have a match under their belts when the competition starts," he said.
"A lot of those players who played in Orlando will also play in the Vodacom Cup side, so have another opportunity to show their worth.
"We will have to be very wise this year in how we use our players.
"There is some nice depth in the squad, so we will be able to rotate players where and when needed."
Ludeke picked Lions loan player Callie Visagie as a replacement after the Johannesburg rake recovered from a hamstring strain, while Bok centre Wynand Olivier will also play off the bench.
He recently returned to the Bulls camp following the end of his club’s season in Japan.
Spies is one of a number of players who will be returning following a long lay-off due to injuries.
"We are all keen to go out there and play," he said.
"The start of the season is always eagerly awaited, as everyone is keen to see how much improvement came from the hard work put in during the off-season.
"A couple of us have not played in a while either, so there is a lot of anticipation and energy out there.
"We have played a lot of rugby together as a squad, so we should not suffer from pre-season blues too much.
"The Cheetahs will obviously not allow us some time to get into it slowly, so we will have to start the match focussed."
Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morne Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Ulrich Beyers, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Wynand Olivier.