SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW : Bulls vs Cheetahs

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Bulls coach Nollis Marais moves Jesse Kriel to full-back to play the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Kriel, who started at centre in the win against the Sunwolves last weekend, replaces Warrick Gelant, who has been ruled out of action due to a broken jaw sustained in the same match, in a revised back three.

Travis Ismaiel returns to the starting team as right wing, with Jamba Ulengo replacing injured Bjorn Basson on the left.

Jan Serfontein will return to the midfield to link up with Burger Odendaal. His place on the bench will be taken by SP Marais. The former Southern Kings and Sharks player could debut for the Bulls if he takes to the field.

Marais has also bracketed Arno Botha and Nic de Jager at the back of the scrum. Lappies Labuschagne is back to full fitness and is named on the bench pending this afternoon’s training session, with De Jager as possible cover, should Labuschagne pull out.

Scrum-half Piet van Zyl has been released to the Currie Cup team for match fitness and Ivan van Zyl will deputise at scrum-half.

“We have to get it right,” head coach Nollis Marais said.

“We are battling to put together 80 minutes of rugby at a time. We have been lucky so far that it did not come back to bite us, but we cannot continue like that if we have title ambitions. We need to sustain our first half effort and the players are very aware of that.”

Bulls captain, Adriaan Strauss, is expecting another tough and typical local derby.

“The Cheetahs will be pumped to come here and beat us,” he said.

“This is one of their big matches of the year and if we cannot repel their enthusiasm and commitment by producing our own 80 minute effort, we will be in trouble. Luckily, the team is very aware of that. We are playing at home and have the expectations of our fans, but also the drive from within the team to deliver a good performance.”

Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith has made just one change to his starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with the Bulls in Pretoria.

Nico Lee is set to make his Super Rugby debut at inside centre as a replacement for Joubert Engelbrecht.

Engelbrecht injured his upper arm during last weekend’s defeat to the Brumbies in Bloemfontein.

22-year-old Lee, who hails from Pretoria, has represented the Free State Cheetahs at U19 and U21 level and also in the Vodacom Cup competition.

The Teams:

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha/Nic de Jager, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Lappies Labuschagne, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Francois Brumme, 23 SP Marais

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Segeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Johan Coetzee, Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Maks van Dyk, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Hilton Lobberts, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga

Date: Saturday, April 2
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19:45 local (17:45 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Shuhei Kubo, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Willie Vos


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