Spies returns to lead Bulls

Date published: February 17 2015

Regular captain and number eight Pierre Spies is back at the helm of the Bulls for Friday's clash with the Hurricanes in Pretoria.

Spies takes over the captaincy from Victor Matfield and the number eight jumper from Arno Botha, who picked up an injury in the Bulls' tournament opener last weekend against the Stormers.

The regular Bulls leader was eased back into action off the bench, but is now fit to start in a team that shows four changes to the starting line-up and six all-together from the one that started their campaign with a disappointing loss against the Cape side.

Spies comes in for Botha, with his place on the bench taken by rookie loose forward Hanro Liebenberg, who could earn a first start should he take to the field.

The injury to Werner Kruger also resulted in a front row shuffle. Trevor Nyakane will move from the left side of the front row to the right and Morne Mellett off the bench into the number one jersey.

A fit-again Dean Greyling will take Mellett's place on the bench.

The other change is at the back where Jesse Kriel will start with Jurgen Visser moving to the bench in a straight swop with the SA U20 player.

This will be Kriel's first start after two appearances off the bench.

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke admitted that the forced changes to his pack will add to the pressure that resulted from last week's poor result.

"There is always pressure and the fact that we have five frontline props out with injury does not make it any easier," he explained.

"We have good depth though and we back our junior structures, so I am comfortable that we will be a very competitive outfit on Friday."

Spies also backed the youngsters in the team.

"Yes, we have a couple of younger guys in the team, but they are definitely good enough to play here," he said.

"They bring lots of energy in the mix and we will need a healthy dose of that to compete on Friday against the Hurricanes, who will be full of confidence following their win last weekend."

A step-up from last weekend was also not negotiable, he insisted.

"We know we were not good enough," added Spies.

"We did not play the important moments well and made silly errors that cost us dearly. Everyone is ready to make the step-up," the captain said.

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Handrè Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Mornè Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 23Jurgen Visser.

Date: Friday, February 20
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)