Pierre Spies will lead an experienced Vodacom Bulls side for their second friendly match of the season when they face the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane on Saturday.
The Number 8 has 89 Super Rugby caps for the Bulls and will take to the field with a team where only two players have not played Vodacom Super Rugby.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made wholesale changes from the side that beat the MTN Lions in Orlando last weekend, with only fullback Jürgen Visser remaining in the starting line-up with Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Ulrich Beyers and Lionel Mapoe playing off the bench. Visser and loose head prop Mornè Mellett are the only ones without Super Rugby experience, although Mellett toured with the Bulls last year.
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. 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,” Ludeke said.
“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 on the bench after the Johannesburg rake recovered from a hamstring strain, while Japan-based 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. 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,” Spies said.
“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.”
The Vodacom Bulls team is: Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Francois Venter, Bjorn Basson, Mornè Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies ©, Jacques Potgieter, Dewald Potgieter, Juandrè Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Mornè Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Ulrich Beyers, Lionel Mapoe, Wynand Olivier.