Paige to start for Blue Bulls

Date published: October 13 2016

Scrum-half Rudy Paige will make his first start for the Blue Bulls when they host Western Province in their semi-final in Pretoria on Saturday.

Paige made an appearance for the Blue Bulls off the bench against Boland in their final encounter last month, but the Springbok earned a spot in the run-on side for the big clash against their traditional rivals from the South.

He will replace Piet van Zyl, who is out injured. In the other change to the back-line, a fit-again flyer Travis Ismaiel returns in place of Bjorn Basson. 

Blue Bulls coach, Nollis Marais made a number of changes to his pack. Arno Botha will start at number eight and takes over the captaincy from Hanro Liebenberg, who will move to the bench.

Jannes Kirsten is also promoted to the starting team at flank after he came off the bench against Boland in Wellington. 

Jaco Visagie and Bandise Maku are also rotated again, with Visagie starting and Maku dropping to the bench.

With a second prop on the bench allowed for the semi-finals, Pierre Schoeman will start amongst the replacements and take over from Lizo Gqoboka during the match.

Ivan van Zyl, who played for the Blue Bulls U21 side this season, could earn an 11th cap for the senior side at scrum-half after being named on the bench as Paige's back-up.

A final call between Bjorn Basson and Nic de Jager on the bench will be made later.

Marais is pleased to have Paige back.

"We all feel for Piet, who has been playing great rugby only to miss out through injury, but luckily for us, Rudy is fit and ready to go," he said.

"He started for the Springboks at Loftus two weeks ago and I am sure he is keen to make a similar contribution to the Blue Bulls."

The coach admitted that it was not easy to pick the team. 

"A number of guys on the bench could just as well be starting, but everyone was picked for a particular reason," added Marais.

"We always said it is going to take a squad to win trophies and ours is looking good at the moment."

Arno Botha, who will play in his third semi-final in the competition, said they have many reasons to deliver a good performance.

"We want to play in the final," he said.

"We realise WP are a dangerous opponent, with a number of matchwinners, but we really need to do this for ourselves and off course, for our fans. We expect a good crowd and we are motivated not to let them down. 

"We have developed nicely as a group this year and come into the match with good momentum. That said, all 23 of us will have to play our best match ever if we want to beat WP. We are determined to deliver a good result."

Blue Bulls: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha (c), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Martin Dreyer, 18 Pierre Schoeman, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Hanro Liebenberg, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Bjorn Basson)/Nic de Jager 

Date: Saturday, 15 October 2016
Time: 18:00 (16:00 GMT) 
Venue: Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Shaun Veldsman