Bulls coach Nollis Marais, his eyes firmly on the potential conference decider in 10 days’ time against the Stormers, has made nine changes, six in the starting line-up, as his team end their time in Australia with a tough match against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.
Jamba Ulengo, who only arrived back in Australia at the weekend, comes straight back in on the right wing in place of Travis Ismaiel, who injured his hamstring. Tian Schoeman and Rudy Paige will also be in the pivotal halfback positions, with Francois Brummer and Piet van Zyl on the bench.
With Jason Jenkins fit again and back in the second row alongside RG Snyman, Jannes Kirsten also returns to the starting loose trio because he is no longer required to also provide lock cover off the bench.
Lizo Gqoboka comes in at loosehead prop for Trevor Nyakane in the other change to the starting line-up.
Nyakane joins hooker Jaco Visagie and tighthead Pierre Schoeman in a new-look replacement front row on the bench, while Dries Swanepoel is in the utility back position in place of Dan Kriel.
“The main thing is we wanted to win against the Brumbies before rotating players, but unfortunately we don’t have that luxury. Not all our best players will be on the field, but the guys that have come in will bring something different. Guys like Tian and Rudy were good earlier in the season and we must get momentum for the next three games, which are vital,” Marais explained from Sydney on Wednesday.
The first test for the Bulls against the Waratahs will be up front in the scrums and Marais is confident his front row can get the job done.
“We started well against the Brumbies but then we lost a couple of scrums in the second half because of early engagement. But Lizo is a good scrummager, this is a good scrummaging front row and it might be the new front row for the next three games,” Marais said.
While rotation was always going to be on the cards for the last game on tour, Marais said the players are still feeling fresh and enthusiastic.
“We know the next three weeks will be very hard, but the guys tell me they don’t want to rest, they want to play. They’re lus to keep going,” Marais said.
Bulls team: SP Marais, Jamba Ulengo, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Tian Schoeman, Rudy Paige, Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten, Lappies Labuschagne, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (c), Lizo Gqoboka. Bench – Jaco Visagie, Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Schoeman, Marvin Orie, Roelof Smit, Piet van Zyl, Francois Brummer, Dries Swanepoel.