The Bulls In Desperate Need For The First Win

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The Vodacom Bulls host the Highlanders in Pretoria on Saturday (17:15 South African time). The management and supporters are hoping that the inclusion of Manie Libbok at flyhalf will ignite the fire that has been lacking this season so far.

The Highlanders are struggling almost as much as the Vodacom Bulls, lagging at the bottom of the New Zealand log after only one win this season. However, their host who is also guarding the bottom of the South African log is in a desperate fight to secure one win before they embark on their overseas tour.

Vodacom Bulls coach, Pote Human made four changes in total to the side that lost to the Jaguares with Ruan Nortje partnering Groenewald in a new-look second-row combination and Former Junior Springbok No 8 Muller Uys deservedly get his Vodacom Super Rugby debut. There is one change in the backline, where Manie Libbok gets his first start of the season at flyhalf as Morné Steyn is shifted to the bench.

Ash Dixon and Aaron Smith will co-captain the Pulse Energy Highlanders against the Bulls on Saturday night. Regular squad Captain, James Lentjes, has been sidelined for the season following a nasty injury to his ankle that occurred during last week’s match against the Rebels. 

Experience returns to the starting XV in the form of All Black hooker, Liam Coltman and fellow All Black, Shannon Frizell, who is back from his rest week. Young Southland lock, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, comes into the middle row for Jack Whetton who moves to the bench and Dillon Hunt replaces the injured James Lentjes. Only one change in the backs, the hard-running centre Ngane Punivai, will make his debut for the Highlanders. 

Vodacom Bulls head coach Pote Human said his side is in desperate need of their first win of the season. However, he is also excited about the prospects of seeing Uys and Groenewald’s performing in their debut outings: “Tough choices had to be made and the players, and I, understand what needs to be done and we accept accountability. There is no doubt that we have our backs against the wall and would need to deal with that pressure to restore the pride and belief of the Loftus faithful.”

Highlanders Head Coach, Aaron Mauger, is his happy for his players, “Ngane has worked incredibly hard since his arrival and his selection is the reward for all that hard work and Mitch Hunt has been a class player for some time now and to play 50 Super Rugby games is a significant achievement for him”.

The teams:

Vodacom Bulls - 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Muller Uys, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Ian Groenewald, 3 Trevor Nyakane (captain), 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Ryno Pieterse, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Divan Rossouw.

Highlanders - 15 Michael Collins, 14 Josh McKay, 13 Ngane Punivai, 12 Josh Ioane, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone. Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Teihorangi Walden, 23 Tima Fainga’anuku.