Bulls unleash De Jager on Stormers
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Springbok lock Lodewyk de Jager will make his Super Rugby debut for the Bulls on Saturday in Cape Town against the Stormers.
De Jager, who gained 40 Super Rugby caps for the Cheetahs, has been named along five Springboks Test players in the starting team, with Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo, Handré Pollard, Rudy Paige, and Jacques Potgieter. Rudolph Snyman and Lizo Gqoboka also played in the Green and Gold last season, as did Piet van Zyl.
De Jager is one of four newcomers to the Bulls team in their opening fixture of the competition. Edgar Marutlulle and Jacobie Adriaanse (both Lions and Southern Kings) have already played at this level and will make their Bulls debuts when called upon from the bench, while back-up flank, Ruan Steenkamp will make his Bulls and Super Rugby debut if he takes to the field.
Pollard will lead the team for the first time as captain and will make his first appearance in Super Rugby since May 29, 2015, when he played against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Injuries kept him out of rugby during the 2016 season.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais was keen to get the season underway, despite the massive challenge they face in Round One.
"You need to beat the best teams in the competition if you want to win it and to be honest, there will be no easy games," said Marais.
"The Stormers will pose a massive challenge, no doubt, but that will be a good benchmark for us at the start of our campaign. We have realistic expectations this year and with a good start, we believe we can still be involved come the final weekends."
Marais was happy with his squad, despite missing a number of players.
"We are without proven players such as Adriaan [Strauss], Arno [Botha], Jan [Serfontein] and Roelof [Smit], but that is the nature of this competition. Fact is, we have some serious talent in this group and we owe it to ourselves and our supporters to do justice to that," Marais indicated.
Pollard promised a competitive effort in Cape Town.
"Look, this is one of the classic matches on the calendar and we look forward to this challenge," said Pollard.
"The Stormers are a class team and playing them at home is probably the toughest start of all in the competition. That said, we have the belief in the squad and the confidence that we can do well this year. We now need to go out there and show our worth."
Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Nick de Jager, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlelle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Warrick Gelant.
Date: Saturday, February 25
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 19.30 (17.30 GMT)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)