Try-scoring ace Bjorn Basson will start at fullback for the Vodacom Blue Bulls when they take on DHL Western Province in the opening round of the Currie Cup Premier Division on Friday. Basson, who broke the Currie Cup record for tries in a season while playing on the wing, will form a potent back three with Jade Stighling and Jamba Ulengo, himself the leading try-scorer in the competition in 2015.
Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais named an experienced side, with only Eli Snyman new to the current squad. The Junior Springbok will making his first appearance in the senior competition from the bench.
“We need to start well and I am happy with the way we prepared,” Marais said. “WP have a formidable team though and will travel here with lots of confidence. I am expecting a solid start from our guys though. We have worked on some issues that dogged the team earlier in the season and will be looking at eliminating them.”
Marais is expecting good attacking play from his new back three. “They all know how to get to the tryline, so the challenge for us will be to make sure they have the space to attack. And of course, enough ball to run with.”
Vodacom Blue Bulls captain, Arno Botha, is keen for the tournament to kick off.
“The Currie Cup proper does make the heart pumps just a little faster. We are keen to get the season underway and continue with the good things we have done this year. We are hoping for a good crowd as well, as they do help us play better. The fans have been patient, but it is time for us to seriously challenge for the Currie Cup again. We owe it to them and to ourselves.”
Kick-off is at 17h10.
The team is: Bjorn Basson, Jade Stighling, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Arno Botha (c), Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Marvin Orie, Jason Jenkins, Entienne Swanepoel, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Nqoba Mxoli, Eli Snyman, Hanro Liebenberg, Andre Warner, Tony Jantjies, Dan Kriel.
Junior teams to face DHL Western Province named
The Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-21 team to face the DHL Western Province in the opening round of the SA Rugby Under-21 competition has also been named. Abongile Nonkontwana will lead the side from the side of the scrum. Coach Pote Human included two players with Vodacom Super Rugby experience, with Dewald Human (Southern Kings) and Ivan van Zyl (Vodacom Bulls) playing at fullback and scrumhalf respectively.
The midfield combination of JT Jackson and Franco Naude also played together for the Junior Springboks in the recent World Rugby Junior World Cup in Manchester.
Kick-off is at 14h45.
The team is: Dewald Human, Keanan van Wyk, Franco Naude, JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw, Tinus de Beer, Ivan van Zyl (v/c), Jsuanre Swanepoel, Abongile Nonkontwana, Marco van Staden, Aston Fortuin, Ruben van Heerden, Matthys Basson, Alandre van Rooyen, Njabulo Gumede. Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher, Stefaan Grundlingh, Sam Mitchell, Dean van der Westhuizen, Theo Maree, Kurt Webster, Adrian Maebane
The Under-19 side for the crucial clash against DHL Western Province will see Manie Libbok at fullback and Boeta Hamman at flyhalf, with Heino Bezuidenhout again leading the team from midfield. Coach Jaco Pienaar’s troops started the season very well.
The Blue Bulls and WP are the only undefeated ones in the competition after five rounds, so this is expected to be a massive clash.
Kick-off is at 13h10.
The team is: Manie Libbok, Lourens Steenkamp, Heino Bezuidenhout, Jordan Holgate, Irvin Ali, Boeta Hamman, Josh Allderman, Dylan van der Walt, Rickert Korff, Eduan Lubbe, Hendre Stassen, Marius Verwey, IG Prinsloo, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenkamp. Replacements: Nico Peyper, Simphiwe Matanzima, Tiny Mukhari, Erik Groenewald, MJ Hayes, Jason Olivier, Erich Cronje, Ciaran Dayaram.