VIDEO: Bulls unveil Bok-laden team for Stormers clash
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Bulls head coach Pote Human has unveiled his team to face the Stormers in Round One of Super Rugby at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
The Bulls will start their 2019 campaign with five tournament rookies that will also see the return to of Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits to Super Rugby.
Vermeulen returns to the competition for the first time since 2015 having represented the Cheetahs and Stormers in 109 matches, while Brits, who played for the Cats and Stormers in his career, last saw action in the Southern Hemisphere showpiece in 2011.
Rosko Specman will be the only tournament debutant in the run-on team though as Human named the former Springbok Sevens player on the wing. Specman has played in the Pro14 competition for the Cheetahs in 2017, but this will be a first taste of Super Rugby for the two time World Sevens Series winner.
Human also named Corniel Els, Simphiwe Matanzima, Eli Snyman and Dylan Sage on the bench, with all due for a first appearance for the home side in the competition.
Matanzima sat on the bench in last season’s match against the Sunwolves in Singapore, but did not take to the field.
Apart from Vermeulen and Brits, there will also be a Bulls debut for replacement prop Dayan van der Westhuizen. The Bulls player represented the Southern Kings in the tournament before as a loan player to the Eastern Cape franchise, playing for them 11 times.
Ruan Steenkamp, who missed the entire 2018 Super Rugby tournament due to injury, was named on the flank.
Human could call on a very experienced core of players, with Burger Odendaal and Handré Pollard in line for their 50th caps later this season, while up front, Trevor Nyakane could play in his 100th Super match during the tournament (running out for his 50th Bulls cap on Saturday).
Lood de Jager will lead the team for the first time in the tournament and the lock will combine with Jason Jenkins. The duo last started a match together as the lock combination in March 2018 against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The locks are amongst the 10 Springboks named by Human for the season’s opener.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jessie Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager (captain), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Dylan Sage.
Date: Saturday, February 16
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 17.15 (15.15 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: Paul Williams, Egon Seconds
TMO: Marius Jonker