Matfield on the bench for Bulls in Sharks opener

The Bulls have named their team to play the Sharks in their Super Rugby opener in Durban on Saturday and have included former captain Victor Matfield on the replacements bench.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has named a youthful side to be captained by Pierre
Spies that includes a number of players on debut and a number of others with
only a handful of caps, but will also have the luxury of Victor Matfield on
the bench.

Matfield will join former Sharks AJ Venter en John Smit in becoming the most
capped South African Super Rugby players and will play in his 125th
match at this level.

Deon Stegmann (groin) failed a fitness test on Wednesday and was not considered,
which will give Jono Ross a starting opportunity in the number 6 jersey.

His fellow flanker, Jacques du Plessis, will play in the number seven jersey
for the first time after an appearance at lock in his Super Rugby debut in 2013.

Springbok scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, who joined from the Cheetahs, will play
off the bench, as will Jacques Engelbrecht, who joined from the Southern Kings.

Ludeke was confident that he picked the right combinations for the opening
match.

“We have identified certain areas where we will have to dominate and
I think we have the right combinations in place to achieve that. This is going
to be a typical South African derby with a lot of focus on the breakdown and
to dominate the advantage line,” he predicted.

“We respect the Sharks, but if we are accurate and play our rugby in
the right areas of the field, we should get some reward for that. Our focus
will be to execute and to make sure that we protect our ball, as the Sharks
will be keen to counter whenever we turn over possession.”

On Matfield’s inclusion, Ludeke said, “We all know what Victor
is capable of. He showed in training and our friendly match that he is still
right up there amongst the best and I am confident that he will make a telling
contribution when called upon.”

Bulls captain Pierre Spies said his side does not mind the ‘underdog’
status in Durban.

“The Sharks should be one of the pre-tournament favourites. They have
a lot of Springboks in their team, have loads of experience in the decision-making
positions and will be playing in front of a very passionate crowd. This is exactly
the type of challenges we like as a team and will go to Durban with a lot of
determination and motivation.

“We have some goals to achieve and worked hard to make sure we are ready
to compete against any team at any venue. The younger guys in our team bring
a lot of energy to our effort and I am pretty pleased to have them in my side,
rather than playing against them,” Spies said.

Bulls

15 Jurgen Visser , 14 Akona Ndungane , 13 J J Engelbrecht , 12 Jan Serfontein , 11 Bjorn Basson , 10 Louis Fouché , 9 Francois Hougaard , 8 Pierre Spies (K) , 7 Jacques du Plessis , 6 Jono Ross , 5 Flip vd Merwe , 4 Paul Willemse , 3 Werner Kruger , 2 Callie Visagie , 1 Dean Greyling

16 Bongi Mbonambi , 17 Frik Kirsten , 18 Victor Matfield , 19 Jacques Engelbrecht , 20 Piet van Zyl , 21 Handré Pollard , 22 Ulrich Beyers , 23 Marcel vd Merwe

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