Botha in first start for Vodacom Bulls this year

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Arno Botha will make a first appearance for the Vodacom Bulls in the 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby competition on Saturday when the South Africans take on the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The loose forward played in 11 matches in the competition last year and 46 in his career but will be part of the Bulls match day squad for the first time this year.

Botha comes in for injured Hanro Liebenberg at no8 as Vodacom Bulls coach, Nollis Marais, also made a couple of rotational changes from the side that lost to the Blues last weekend.

Jesse Kriel moves from center to fullback in place of Warrick Gelant, who will play off the bench. Burger Odendaal is back in the run-on team, and as in their win over the Sunwolves, last month will start with Jan Serfontein in the midfield, while at scrumhalf, Rudy Paige and Piet van Zyl swops jerseys, with Page starting this time.

The same happens up front at lock with RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins swopping and at loosehead, where Lizo Gqoboka and Pierre Schoeman rotates again.

Jacobie Adriaanse, who missed out last weekend, is back on the bench in place of injured John-Roy Jenkinson. Jaco Visagie and Edgar Marutlulle also swops places, with the latter on the bench.

“I am happy to have Arno back. He is a proven player at this level and I am very keen to see him contribute in what will be a very physical and robust match. Hanro did well so far, but Arno progressed really well after picking up an injury in pre-season and he will be keen to show why he played test match rugby for the Springboks,” Marais said.

“We certainly have a lot to improve. We cannot be proud of that last 40 minutes we produced against the Blues. We are a better team than that and we have an opportunity against a great team to prove that.”

Vodacom Bulls captain, Adriaan Strauss, shared the sentiment.

“We are not doing justice to ourselves, we are not achieving the targets we set and we are disappointing our supporters. That said, this team is certainly good enough, but talk is cheap. We need to go out and show that on the field. We could not have picked a more fitting place or opponent to do that than against the Chiefs at home, but we have to show that belief and justify the hard work done.”

Strauss will extend his record as the most-capped South African hooker in the tournament, playing in his 135th match.

The team to play the Chiefs (with number of caps and points) is: Jesse Kriel (35, 10), Travis Ismaiel (21, 30), Jan Serfontein (50, 75), Burger Odendaal (22, 10), Jamba Ulengo (14, 30), Handré Pollard (29, 265), Rudy Paige (37, 5), Arno Botha (46, 5), Nick de Jager (8, 5), Ruan Steenkamp (4, 0), Lood de Jager (43, 5), RG Snyman (16, 10), Trevor Nyakane (74, 15), Adriaan Strauss (c, 134, 70), Pierre Schoeman (13, 5). Replacements Edgar Marutlulle (28, 20), Lizo Gqoboka (15, 5), Jacobie Adriaanse (29, 0), Jason Jenkins (17, 15), Jannes Kirsten (17, 10), Piet van Zyl (72, 65), Tian Schoeman (26, 82), Warrick Gelant (8, 5).

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