Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named an experienced outfit to face the Stormers on Friday at Loftus Versfeld in the opening match of the local 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
Ludeke named two debutants in his starting XV, with Lionel Mapoe and Mornè Mellett set to start at wing and prop respectively, but also named two centurions and a host of players with more than 40 caps.
Mapoe has played 23 matches for the MTN Lions and five for the Toyota Cheetahs before, whilst Mellett toured with the Bulls last year, but did not play in any matches.
Pierre Spies, who captains the side, is one of 11 players who have 40 caps or more at this level.
“We do have an experienced core of players this year and it is something that hopefully will benefit us,” Ludeke said in Tuesday.
“Even Mornè Mellett, who will start in his first match, has toured with us and played well in last year’s Currie Cup. In this competition one will always be looking at the experienced guys in your team and we are lucky to have a lot of those in important positions,” Ludeke said in announcing his team.
Three Springboks, Dean Greyling, Akona Ndungane and Jacques Potgieter were not considered due to injury, whilst Emerging Springbok lock Wilhelm Steenkamp is also out of action of another two weeks due to a shoulder injury.
Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies said they are looking forward to the start of the season, despite the fact that they are facing the Stormers, who won both encounters between the two sides in 2012.
“They are a formidable side, but this competition is all about measuring yourself against the best out there, as a team and on a personal level. It will be a massive game, as it is not only the traditional North/South derby, it is also two teams with good records in Super Rugby wanting to stake the first claim,” Spies said.
“We are at home and would like to give our fans something to look forward to this season. The first step is to start well against the Stormers.”
The team (with Super Rugby caps): Zane Kirchner (71), Lionel Mapoe (28), JJ Engelbrecht (17), Wynand Olivier (103), Bjorn Basson (42), Mornè Steyn (106), Francois Hougaard (45), Pierre Spies (89, c), Dewald Potgieter (54), Deon Stegmann (60), Juandrè Kruger (17), Flip van der Merwe (48),Werner Kruger (75), Chiliboy Ralepelle (52), Mornè Mellett (0). Replacements: Willie Wepener (53),Frik Kirsten (15), Grant Hattingh (9), Arno Botha (10), Jano Vermaak (88), Louis Fouchè (10), Francois Venter (8).
•Lionel Mapoe and Grant Hattingh, who played for the MTN Lions in 2012, will make their Bulls Super Rugby debut, while Mornè Mellett will make his debut in the competition.
•Mornè Steyn is the leading points’ scorer in South Africa in Super Rugby. He will be looking to extend his points’ tally of 1201 (11t, 210c, 218p, 24dg).
•Wynand Olivier (29) is the leading Bulls try scorer in the competition and with 103 caps also the most capped Super Rugby centre in South Africa.