Springbok loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane will get the chance to prove he can also be a top-class tighthead when he starts in the number three jersey for the Vodacom Bulls in their SuperRugby match against the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
With Marcel van der Merwe already out with a hamstring strain and Werner Kruger suffering a serious ankle injury last weekend in the rout up front against the Stormers, the Bulls are facing something of a crisis in the tighthead position, but coach Frans Ludeke believes Nyakane can do a job there, even though he will be up against a seasoned All Black in Ben Franks.
“Trevor has really improved at tighthead, he has played Tests there, and we ended strongly in the scrums against the Stormers with him there. This selection reflects that and we are still positive and excited about what we can do in the scrums,” Ludeke said at the team announcement on Tuesday.
Morne Mellet will start at loosehead prop, while Dean Greyling is back on the bench after recovering from a foot injury. The reserve tighthead is Dayan van der Westhuizen, an SA U20 prop, but there seems to be a reluctance to use him as he was left on the bench for the whole of the Stormers game despite the obvious problems the Bulls were having in the scrums.
Ludeke confirmed that the Bulls were looking to acquire an experienced tighthead as back-up, which is probably wise given the obvious lack of faith in Van der Westhuizen.
The one unenforced change to the team comes at fullback where Jesse Kriel replaces Jurgen Visser. Ludeke said Kriel would be a better choice against the Hurricanes because “we think the ball will be in play a lot”, but confidentiality and a wish to protect Visser probably prevented the coach from saying the change was made because of the simple kick ahead that Visser dropped in the first half, leading to the Stormers’ first try and a dramatic change in the momentum of the game.
A third change to the side is enforced by the pectoral muscle injury to eighthman Arno Botha. He will be replaced by captain Pierre Spies, with both the player and management in agreement that he is ready for a full return to action after doing well off the bench against the Stormers.
“The way Pierre carried the ball, it was like the old Pierre Spies. He had a huge impact and we are very satisfied that he’s back to full fitness,” Ludeke said.
Spies’s place on the bench will be taken by young Hanro Liebenberg, who everyone agrees is destined for greater things.
Bulls team: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Trevor Nyakane, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Morne Mellet. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Dean Greyling, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Hanro Liebenberg, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jurgen Visser, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen.