Hougaard at scrum-half for Blue Bulls

Date published: August 6 2015

Francois Hougaard will start at scrum-half for the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup opener against the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday.

New coach Nollis Marais has also named Lappies Labuschagne as skipper in his first game for the Blue Bulls since joining from Free State.

Hougaard is by far the most experienced member of the backline, however up front Marais has plenty of Super Rugby and even Test experience to call on.

Deon Stegmann starts alongside Labuschagne in the back row, with Baby Boks skipper Hanro Liebenberg at number eight.

Jacques du Plessis also gets a start in the second row, while experienced prop duo Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling are named in the front row.

In the backline full-back Warrick and winger Travis Ismaiel will make their Currie Cup debuts.

"We have a good blend of youth and experience and I hope we can find the right mix in our playing style to add to that," Marais said.

"I am positive that we can mix it up in our approach, and with a changed mindset we will carry the ball a bit more and use it in a positive way, but you don’t change things overnight, so I am comfortable in the knowledge that we have a good back-up plan too."

"Playing the Blue Bulls is always a massive game for the home side and this time will be no different," added Labuschagne. 

"We will have to weather the storm and make sure we focus on those things we believe will make us successful. The group believe in each other, but the only way to prove that is out there on the field."

Blue Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (c), 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling. 
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 Dries Swanepoel.

Date: Saturday, August 8
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 14:15 local (12:15 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge, Jaco Pretorius
Television match official: Willie Vos