Potgieter has been out of action for three weeks with a hamstring strain, but Ludeke is confident he will be able to slot straight back into piloting the Bulls ship in a crunch encounter in which game-management will be crucial, pointing to the superb performance delivered on debut in the number 12 jersey last weekend by Burger Odendaal, in his first week back after a knee injury.
“Handre is not very confident about his knee, it’s been giving him trouble, so it’s not worth the risk playing him if he’s not 100% fit. Burger Odendaal showed last week that the system works, the way he came through after a long break and played a very solid 80 minutes, and we back Jacques-Louis to do the same,” Ludeke said at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.
Having showed that he certainly won’t be a liability at this level, Odendaal retains his place at inside centre, allowing the Bulls to give Springbok Jan Serfontein an extra week’s rest after a hip flexor injury.
In fact, the only other changes to the Bulls side come in the pack, with Grant Hattingh once again standing in for Victor Matfield at number five lock and Dean Greyling starting for Morne Mellet at loosehead.
There is a place for Mellet on the bench, but Matfield is out of the match-day 23 as Ludeke admitted that the veteran Springbok is, in fact, suffering from a knee injury and his absence is not part of his resting duties for the national side.
“Player health is very important for us and we want to be transparent, so we are declaring today that Victor also got injured and his rest will be next week,” Ludeke said.
There is also a return to the squad for reserve hooker Callie Visagie, who has recovered from a back injury.
If there were any doubts that the Bulls are expecting the Lions to play a high-tempo game and to target their breakdown, those will have been dismissed by the selection of Roelof Smit, a second specialist openside flank alongside Deon Stegmann, on the bench.
“Jacques du Plessis and Grant Hattingh can both cover seven and eight, but number six is a specialist position for us, he needs to control the maul at the back and make 20 tackles. Roelof has a high work-rate and we’ve seen he’s been playing well in the Vodacom Cup,” Ludeke said.
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellet, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.