Bulls rest their Boks in Tokyo
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Bulls coach Nollis Marais has given starts to Tian Schoeman and Jannes Kirsten for the first time this season.
The Bulls face the Sunwolves in a Super Rugby Round Seven clash in Tokyo on Saturday.
Schoeman will start in place of Handré Pollard, who along with Jesse Kriel, are being rested as part of the agreement with Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.
Kriel's spot at fullback goes to Warrick Gelant.
Up front, Jannes Kirsten will start in place of injured Ruan Steenkamp, Hanro Liebenberg returns at No.8 and takes over from injured Arno Botha and Jason Jenkins will partner Rudolph Snyman at lock, with Lodewyk de Jager falling out the match 23 with a quad strain.
Martin Dreyer, who replaced John-Roy Jenkinson on tour, will take over from Jacobie Adriaanse on the bench, while Jacques Potgieter, Ivan van Zyl and Franco Naude, who also arrived from South Africa earlier in the week, will all play off the bench.
Potgieter has been named the back-up lock, Van Zyl will cover for the injured Piet van Zyl and Naude will cover the midfield and outside backs.
Francois Brummer, who joined the team in New Zealand already, will back up Tian Schoeman.
Young Hendré Stassen (pencilled in alongside Jaco Visagie for the No.19 jersey), joined the team this week after being in camp with the Junior Boks, is also a possible debutant off the bench.
Marais was adamant that his side will not let their heads drop, following two defeats on tour.
"We showed massive improvement against the Chiefs and I am pleased with that," the coach said.
"We always knew how difficult this tour would be, but with all the injuries, it proved even tougher than expected.
"A win over the Sunwolves is no given, but if we continue the upward trend shown in New Zealand, we will be in with a serious chance to win," he added.
The coach was well aware of the huge amount of travel by his team, but feels this is not detrimental.
"The Sunwolves have to travel a lot as well and as they have shown when they last played us and the Cheetahs, this should not be a burden if managed properly."
Captain, Adriaan Strauss, also took the number of changes in his stride.
"It is what it is, we knew we had to rest some of our Springboks at some stage and injuries are always part of the game," Strauss said.
"That said, I am excited to have the new guys in the team, as they bring a new energy to the party and will be keen to show what they are capable of.
"This will be another new venue for us, but at least we know what to expect from the Sunwolves.
"They will play with passion and pace, something we will need to match if we want to return home with a win under the belt."
Strauss will extend his South African record for most appearances as a hooker in the Super Rugby tournament.
He will play in his 136th match.
Franco Naude could make his Bulls and Super Rugby debut should he take to the field. The former Garsfontein High School player represented the Junior Springboks in 2016.
Hendré Stassen could make his Bulls and Super Rugby debut should he take to the field. The former Dr EG Jansen High School player is currently part of the Junior Springboks training squad.
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Nic de Jager, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Jaco Visagie/HendréStassen, 20 Jacques Potgieter, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Franco Naude.
Date: Saturday, April 8
Venue: Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Kick-off: 14.15 (07.15 SA time; 05.15 GMT)
Referee: Will Houston
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann, Akihisa Aso
TMO: Minoru Fuji