Bulls coach Nollis Marais has unsurprisingly chosen the same starting XV that did the job so well in Perth for their SuperRugby match against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.
The only change to the 23 that hammered the Western Force 42-20 is on the bench, where Dan Kriel replaces Dries Swanepoel as the reserve centre.
“We’ve gained good momentum from our last time out so I’ve made just the one change, Dan and Dries swopping around because I’ve been rotating them every week and they can both play 12, 13 and wing.
“There are certain things that we will try and improve on, but we’re getting better every game, small things are getting better every week, but it’s really just about winning,” Marais said on Tuesday from Sydney, where they are based for their preparations.
The bonus point win over the Force means the Bulls are not only sitting pretty in Africa Conference 1, just one point behind the Stormers with a game in hand, but it also highlighted the tremendous depth that Marais now has as he negotiates their playoff push with the competition just over the halfway mark.
The loose trio of Lappies Labuschagne, Arno Botha and Hanro Liebenberg, with Jannes Kirsten coming off the bench, dovetailed superbly against the Force; Marvin Orie’s performance at lock was highly encouraging given that the Bulls also have the outstanding RG Snyman playing superbly, as well as rising star Jason Jenkins and the reliable Grant Hattingh in reserve; while Francois Brummer has settled in well at flyhalf, with Piet van Zyl and Rudy Paige being two accomplished scrumhalves who are good enough to have played for the Springboks.
“At the beginning of the season, we only had three loose forwards, so it’s great that there’s now healthy competition. I’ve backed Hanro because I believe in his future, Arno was brilliant at seven and Jannes had one of the highest work-rates we’ve ever recorded when he came off the bench. So to keep your place in the loose trio, you have to play to your potential.
“Marvin has great talent and led the lineout calls last year in the Currie Cup. Although it didn’t go so well for him at the start of this season, Jason’s injury gave him an opportunity and he took his chance.
“In terms of the half-backs, we want to play a fast game and be tactical, and they struggled with that a bit at the start. But Piet gets us quickly over the advantage line and Francois is kicking at 90% and his commitment in making that corner-flag tackle was outstanding,” Marais said.
Bulls team – SP Marais, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Francois Brummer, Piet van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg, Arno Botha, Lappies Labuschagne, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (c), Trevor Nyakane. Bench: Bandise Maku, Lizo Gqoboka, Werner Kruger, Jannes Kirsten, Roelof Smit, Rudy Paige, Tian Schoeman, Dan Kriel.