Scrumhalf Rudy Paige will make a first start for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup on Saturday when the home side will take on the DHL Western Province team in the semifinal of the competition at Loftus Versfeld.
Paige made an appearance for the Blue Bulls off the bench against Boland in their final encounter last month, but the Springbok scrumhalf earned a spot in the run-on side for the big clash against their traditional rivals from the South.
He will replace Piet van Zyl, who is out injured. In the other change to the backline, a fit-again Travis Ismaiel returns in place of Bjorn Basson.
Vodacom Blue Bulls coach, Nollis Marais made a number of changes to his pack. Arno Botha will start at no8 and take over the captaincy from Hanro Liebenberg, who will move to the bench. Jannes Kirsten is also promoted to the starting team at flank after he came off the bench in Wellington.
Jaco Visagie and Bandise Maku is also rotated again, with Visagie starting and Maku on the bench.
With a second prop on the bench allowed for the semifinals, Pierre Schoeman will start on the bench and take over from Lizo Gqoboka during the match.
Ivan van Zyl, who played for the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-21’s this season, could earn an 11th cap for the senior side at scrumhalf after being named on the bench as back-up scrumhalf.
A final call between Bjorn Basson and Nic de Jager on the bench will be made later.
Marais was pleased to have Paige back. “We all feel for Piet, who has been playing great rugby only to miss out through injury, but luckily for us, Rudy is fit and ready to go. He started for the Springboks at Loftus two weeks ago and I am sure he is keen to make a similar contribution to the Blue Bulls.”
The coach admitted that it was not easy to pick the team.
“A number of guys on the bench could just as well be starting, but everyone was picked for a particular reason. We always said it is going to take a squad to win trophies and ours is looking good at the moment.”
Arno Botha, who will play in his third semifinal in the competition, said they have many reasons to deliver a good performance.
“We want to play in the final. We realise WP is a dangerous opponent, with a number of match-winners, but we really need to do this for ourselves and off course, for our fans. We expect a good crowd and we are motivated not to let them down. We have developed nicely as a group this year and comes into the match with good momentum. That said, all 23 of us will have to play our best match ever if we want to beat WP. We are determined to deliver a good result.”
The team (with Currie Cup caps) is: Ulrich Beyers (18), Travis Ismaiel (18), Dries Swanepoel (17), Burger Odendaal (29), Jamba Ulengo (20), Tian Schoeman (22), Rudy Paige (12), Arno Botha (k, 29), Jannes Kirsten (9), Roelof Smit (10), RG Snyman (17), Marvin Orie (19), Jacobie Adriaanse (65), Jaco Visagie (16), Lizo Gqoboka (62).
Replacements: Bandise Maku (81), Martin Dreyer (37), Pierre Schoeman (12), Jason Jenkins (6), Hanro Liebenberg (11), Ivan van Zyl (10), Joshua Stander (7), Bjorn Basson (68)/Nic de Jager (6).