Bok Paige cleared for play-offs
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Springbok scrumhalf Rudy Paige will make a first start for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup on Saturday.
The Bulls host Western Province in a Currie Cup semifinal at Loftus Versfeld.
Paige, who made an appearance for the Blue Bulls off the bench against Boland in their final encounter last month, was in doubt for the play-offs after suffering concussion in the Boks' win over the Wallabies in Pretoria.
However, he was cleared on Wednesday and earned a spot in the starting XV for the big clash against their traditional rivals from the South.
He will replace Piet van Zyl, who has been ruled out as a result of a concussion he suffered at training with the Bok squad - after replacing Paige in the squad for the final Rugby Championship clash with the All Blacks in Durban last week.
In the other change to the backline, a fit-again Travis Ismaiel returns in place of Bjorn Basson.
Blue Bulls coach, Nollis Marais made a number of changes to his pack.
Arno Botha will start at No.8 and take over the captaincy from Hanro Liebenberg, who will move to the bench.
Jannes Kirsten is also promoted to the starting team at flank, after he came off the bench against the Cavaliers in Wellington.
Jaco Visagie and Bandise Maku is also rotated again at hooker, with Visagie starting and Maku on the bench.
With a second prop on the bench allowed for the semifinals, Pierre Schoeman will start on the bench and take over from Lizo Gqoboka during the match.
Ivan van Zyl, who played for the Blue Bulls Under-21 team this season, could earn an 11th cap for the senior side at scrumhalf - after being named on the bench as back-up scrumhalf.
A final call between Bjorn Basson and Nic de Jager on the bench will be made later.
Marais was pleased to have Paige back.
"We all feel for Piet [van Zyl], who has been playing great rugby only to miss out through injury," the coach said.
"Fortunately for us, Rudy [Paige] is fit and ready to go.
"He started for the Springboks at Loftus two weeks ago and I am sure he is keen to make a similar contribution to the Blue Bulls."
The coach admitted that it was not easy to pick the team.
"A number of guys on the bench could just as well be starting, but everyone was picked for a particular reason.
"We always said it is going to take a squad to win trophies and ours is looking good at the moment."
Arno Botha, who will play in his third semifinal in the competition, said they have many reasons to deliver a good performance.
"We want to play in the Final," Botha said.
"We realise WP is a dangerous opponent, with a number of match-winners, but we really need to do this for ourselves and off course, for our fans.
"We expect a good crowd and we are motivated not to let them down.
"We have developed nicely as a group this year and comes into the match with good momentum. That said, all 23 of us will have to play our best match ever if we want to beat WP. We are determined to deliver a good result."
Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Bjorn Basson/Nic de Jager.
Date: Saturday, October 15
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 18.00 (16.00 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Shaun Veldsman