Hooker Visagie to make first start away to Chiefs
JACO Visagie will make his first start for Gloucester Rugby as one of six changes to the starting line-up for the Heineken Champions Cup match away to Exeter Chiefs this afternoon.
It is the first leg of the traditional European December double-header, and the second time that the Cherry & Whites have played at Sandy Park in a fortnight following the recent Gallagher Premiership fixture.
Hooker Visagie has featured from the bench in the last two games, but will make his full debut in one of three changes to the pack.
Gerbrandt Grobler returns to the second row to partner Tom Savage, and Jake Polledri will start at open- side flanker. In the back line, Matt Banahan, Tom Hudson and Henry Trinder all return to the line-up.
Despite the fact that the two teams met two weeks ago, head coach Johan Ackermann admitted this week that it is a completely different proposition this weekend and that Gloucester Rugby will have to be at their best.
“It’s a new challenge and a new competition and will probably be a new team we’re facing as well as they’ll be bringing in players who weren’t available two weeks ago.
“But we’ll be looking first and foremost at ourselves, and looking to execute better than we did on that specific day. We can’t control any- thing other than our own mindset and way of playing.
“We know that they are a leading side domestically and in Europe. They’re going to test us on all fronts – they’re physical with a good setpiece and test you defensively as they keep the ball for long periods. So we have to be at our best if we are to give ourselves any opportunity.”
Gloucester and Exeter Chiefs are currently the bottom two teams in their Champions Cup group.
■ Bristol Bears head coach Pat Lam says his players have “a fantastic opportunity” to test themselves against European Challenge Cup opponents La Rochelle today.
The French club head to Ashton Gate after claiming a maximum ten points from their first two European games, with Bristol leading the Pool Four chase in second spot.
Full-back Mat Protheroe makes his first appearance in almost a year after recovering from injury, while there are also starts for wing Tom Pincus, fly-half Callum Sheedy, prop Lewis Thiede and lock Joe Joyce.
“We’ve picked a core of young English players for this cup clash,” Lam told the club’s official website.
Gloucester, in red, and Exeter clashed in the Premiership only last month