Marais’ fringe to show him what they’ve got
IT may seem like just another rugby adventure in the unfamiliar surroundings of Zimbabwe’s capital but there will be a lot at stake for many of the Bulls players on Saturday when they take on the Lions in a Super Rugby warmup match.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais has avoided naming his strongest XV and has preferred to afford many of his fringe players an opportunity to make him think otherwise of what his starting team will look like in their season opener against the Stormers at Newlands at the end of next month.
Flyhalf Tony Jantjies looks probable to start after a hiatus from the sky blue jersey that saw him feature for the EP Kings.
Jantjies, who is younger brother to Springbok flyhalf Elton, looks in the best condition of his professional career.
But he won’t be the only player under the microscope in Harare.
All of Abongile Nonkontwana, who will start at No 5, wing JT Jackson, utility back Manie Libbok and newcomer from the Stormers Johnny Kotze, who will start in a midfield pairing with the little known Rabs Maxwane, will be able to show off their wares.
Moreover, Namibian captain Renaldo Botma is over his injuries and will be one to keep an eye on at No 8, while flank Hendre Stassen, lock Ruben van Heerden and prop Coenraad van Vuuren will be keen to impress Marais.
Many of Marais’ starters and a host of Springboks will get some game time off the bench with Lood de Jager likely to get his first run in a Bulls jersey since making the trek from Bloemfontein to Pretoria. Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard is also set to get his first taste of rugby in over a year after being crippled by injury last year.
The Bulls have pencilled in captain and former Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss in their touring squad but he won’t be available to play as he is still recovering from a back operation he had at the end of last year and will possibly only be available for selection in March .
Another Bok and nomad, Jacques Potgieter, has recently returned from Japan and will also be on the bench, while former Junior Springbok flank Shaun Adendorff also makes a welcome return to the Bulls after having played for Boland in the past few seasons.
Junior Springbok fullback Warrick Gelant also makes a return to action after two injuries sustained in the opening matches of the Bulls Super Rugby campaign.
Gelant will be in a battle for the No 15 jersey with Springbok utility back Jesse Kriel.