The untimely injury yesterday of blindside flanker Dewald Potgieter has forced coach Frans Ludeke to promote the talented youngster Arno Botha to the starting team and bring Jacques Potgieter in on the bench.
On the eve of the Super Rugby match against Kings in PE tomorrow, Potgieter was ruled out yesterday with a knee injury, but it gives an opportunity for Botha to show why he was a Springbok squad member last year.
Botha, who was named on the bench, will start in the No 7 jersey, with another Springbok loose forward, Jacques Potgieter, moving onto the bench.
The new loose trio combination of Pierre Spies, Botha and Deon Stegmann has already played together on two occasions this year, against the Blues in Auckland and the Crusaders in Christchurch.
But the Bulls lose a lot of experience with Potgieter’s injury as he boasts 58 caps compared to Botha’s 16, although the latter has made a big impact off the bench this year and certainly deserves this opportunity.
Potgieter, the replacement player that is, also hails from the Port Elizabeth area where he started his career with Eastern Province, and his input could be invaluable.
Ludeke who initially named an unchanged side for the first time this year, said they had decided to show a motion of confidence in the players after the tough 26-20 win over the Cheetahs last weekend.
“We had to work very hard for the win against the Cheetahs and we want that momentum carried over into the Kings match,” Ludeke explained.
“I am pleased with the way the combinations worked on the night and decided to stick with them.”
The Bulls have seen how well the Kings have done in matches at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium where they are fired up by big attendances.
Against the Force, the Sharks and the Chiefs they did very well, while they also impressed on their recent away leg.
“We will need to be very structured and cohesive against the Kings, who will be fired up and spurred on by a sell-out crowd,” said Ludeke.
“To have an (almost) unchanged team will hopefully offset those early challenges.”
Bulls captain Pierre Spies said the bigger the challenge, the bigger their response had to be.
“We need to focus on our own game and not allow the crowd to get into the match,” Spies said, “so we need to have a strong start and keep up the effort.”
The Bulls certainly didn’t enjoy a strong start last weekend as the Cheetahs led 9-6 at halftime.
“We had to dig deep and needed all 22 in the squad to beat the Cheetahs, something that will work in our favour when facing the Kings for the first time,” Spies said.
With the Bulls also just eight log points ahead of the Kings, there’s no guarantee of a successful trip to the Eastern Cape.