Midfielder Burger Odendaal and flanker Ruan Steenkamp will make a return to the Vodacom Bulls run-on team against the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday as coach Pote Human made minimal changes to his team’s fifth Vodacom Super Rugby match of the season.
The return to fitness for both regular starters results in Dylan Sage and Tim Agaba moving to the bench and Paul Schoeman dropping out of the squad altogether.
Eli Snyman, who missed the win against the Cell C Sharks two weeks ago, has also regained fitness and will take his place on the bench. Divan Rossouw also comes straight into the starting line-up at fullback for the injured Warrick Gelant.
Handré Pollard retains the captaincy.
Human said it was important to keep on rewarding good performances, but the experience of Odendaal (45 matches) and the ability of Steenkamp as breakdown specialist was needed for this clash against the Chiefs.
“Both Burger and Ruan will have very important roles to play on Saturday as we expect the Chiefs to come from all angles. They have nothing to lose and we need to be very clinical in certain areas if we want to contain them,” Human explained.
“I expect Dylan and Tim to make significant contributions when they take to the field later in the match.”
Human said the squad is doing well.
“I am happy with the improvement and growth we have shown so far in the competition. It is still early days, but we managed to tick some boxes in the first month of the competition. The New Zealand challenge will test us in different ways though.”
For Pollard, the Chiefs remain a very tough opponent.
“They have this ability to make things look so easy at times and are very quick to turn defence into attack. Their ability to score from anywhere is assisted by a sound first phase game, so this is going to be a huge challenge for us.”
The captain, who scored a try against the Chiefs last year, called on the Loftus faithful for support.
“They cannot play on our behalf, but having a full Loftus behind you, does give the squad a lift. It would be nice to have a good crowd in, there can be no doubt that it is going to be a very entertaining match.”
The squad to play the Chiefs (with Super caps and points):
Divan Rossouw (14, 15), Cornal Hendricks (30, 55), Jesse Kriel (65, 85), Burger Odendaal (45, 15), Rosko Specman (4, 20), Handre Pollard (50, 511), Ivan van Zyl (21, 0), Duane Vermeulen (113, 45), Jannes Kirsten (20, 10), Ruan Steenkamp (14, 0), Jason Jenkins (44, 35), Hanro Liebenberg (32, 15), Trevor Nyakane (95, 15), Schalk Brits (67,20), Lizo Gqoboka (41, 10).
Replacements: Corniel Els (4, 0), Simphiwe Matanzima (4, 0), Dayan van der Westhuyzen (14, 0), Eli Snyman (3, 0), Tim Agaba (3, 0), Embrose Papier (14, 5), Manie Libbok (9, 13), Dylan Sage (4, 0).