Springbok midfielder Jesse Kriel will play in his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby match and Springbok Sevens forward Tim Agaba in his first when the Vodacom Bulls takes on the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.
Kriel debuted for the Vodacom Bulls in 2014 against the Melbourne Rebels and has been on the team sheet ever since.
Agaba, who won bronze at the Olympic Games and gold in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series with the Springbok Sevens team, will start at no8 for the Vodacom Bulls in his debut in one of three changes to the starting team that were edged by the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend.
In the other, Embrose Papier is in the starting line-up for the first time, replacing the injured Andre Warner and Jason Jenkins comes in for RG Snyman at lock.
On the bench, Vodacom Bulls coach, John Mitchell, included two new faces in Ivan van Zyl and Hendre Stassen, and recalled Frans van Wyk as the replacement tighthead. Van Zyl moved into the spot vacated by Papier and Stassen, who is also on debut, will take over from Jenkins as back-up lock.
Van Wyk replaces the suspended Conraad van Vuuren.
Coach Mitchell has a strong message to the team if they want to return victorious from Christchurch.
“To beat the Crusaders, you need to outwork them. That will not be easy, as they have a tremendous work ethic as a team. We are not on this journey to become a better team because it is easy, so we must be prepared to play for all 80 minutes and play every big moment to the best of our ability.”
Vodacom Bulls captain, Burger Odendaal, pointed to his team’s desire to win and their attitude as guidelines to success in Christchurch, a venue the Vodacom Bulls have not been very successful in the past.
“We need the right attitude as that will drive our efforts. We have a saying that winning together is better than winning alone. This will require a massive team effort, but we can do it,” Odendaal said.
The Vodacom Bulls team (with Vodacom Super Rugby caps and points) is: Warrick Gelant (22, 35), Travis Ismaiel (32, 45), Jesse Kriel (49, 35), Burger Odendaal (c; 35, 15), Divan Rossouw (3, 10), Handre Pollard (35, 321), Embrose Papier (4, 0), Tim Agaba (0, 0), Hanro Liebenberg (22, 15), Roelof Smit (17, 5), Lood de Jager (54, 15), Jason Jenkins (30, 25), Trevor Nyakane (83, 15), Jaco Visagie (24, 5), Pierre Schoeman (28, 10). Replacements: Adriaan Strauss (147, 70), Lizo Gqoboka (30, 10), Frans van Wyk (5, 0), Hendre Stassen (0, 0), Marco van Staden (4, 0), Ivan van Zyl (6, 0), Manie Libbok (1, 0), Johnny Kotze (23, 15).
- Adriaan Strauss will extend his South African record for Vodacom Super Rugby appearances to 148 when he takes to the field. He will also equal Victor Matfield’s record as the most capped South African Vodacom Super Rugby player.
- Tim Agaba and Hendre Stassen will make their Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Super Rugby debuts when they take to the field.