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WATCH: ‘It’s no use talking and saying you will get a chance, and you never pick the kid,’ says Bulls’ Jake White

Cape Town – It looks and feels like a B team, but Bulls coach Jake White insists that his new-look starting XV for Saturday’s Champions Cup clash against Lyon at Loftus Versfeld (7.30pm kick-off) is all about giving squad members a real opportunity to play.

The Bulls director of rugby left out every starter from last week’s 45-9 URC win over Cardiff, with Springboks such as Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie, Johan Goosen and others all getting a breather ahead of next Saturday’s showdown with the Exeter Chiefs in England.

Veteran flyhalf Morné Steyn will be the captain of a team that has a Currie Cup feel to it, with fringe players such as Marco Jansen van Vuren, Bernard van der Linde, Sibongile Novuka and Reinhardt Ludwig all featuring in what is still a high-stakes encounter.

The Bulls have to win their home games to have any chance of advancing to the Champions Cup play-offs, so it is a big call from White to leave out his top players.

“We’ve worked a long time for them to get a game. So, it worked out – not because it’s Lyon or because it’s the Champions Cup. It worked out that this was the weekend that we could give them some game time, with the six weeks we have, and we’ve been preparing this team for a while now,” White said.

“So, it’s not automatically that they were just told this week that they would be playing. There’s a mixture of three Springboks – Nizaam (Carr), Morné and Bismarck (du Plessis) – and then there are five or six guys who have won the Currie Cup.

“And then Jacques (van Rooyen) and Dylan (Smith) have played in Super Rugby finals, so a nice balance between experience and guys getting a chance. And Novuka gets another chance on the wing.

“A lot of boys have been working really hard and want to play as well, and one thing coaches can do is create hope. It’s no use talking and saying ‘You will get a chance’, and you never pick the kid.

“The ethos of the group is that we want to do what’s best for the group, and not for the player.”

One of the experienced campaigners in the line-up is giant forward Jacques du Plessis, who has finally overcome a serious Achilles injury that has sidelined him for the best part of a year.

The 29-year-old has hardly played for the Bulls since arriving in Pretoria from Montpellier in France last year, but will make his comeback at No 4 lock on Saturday.

“The medical and conditioning staff have been working hard on him, and we probably could’ve had him out earlier, a couple of weeks earlier,” White said.

“But we just felt with Walt (Steenkamp) finishing up, we needed to use him to give us some time to get Jacques into good shape. He is looking good and is injury-free, and it’s the first time in a long time that he doesn’t walk with a limp after training.

“It will be difficult for him the first time out against Lyon, a good side in Europe… He’s going to have to vasbyt from a fitness point of view, but hopefully he will get through this game without an injury.”

Bulls Team

15 Wandisile Simelane 14 Sibongile Novuka 13 Stedman Gans 12 Marco Jansen van Vuren 11 Stravino Jacobs 10 Morné Steyn (captain) 9 Bernard van der Linde 8 Muller Uys 7 WJ Steenkamp 6 Nizaam Carr 5 Reinhardt Ludwig 4 Jacques du Plessis 3 Jacques van Rooyen 2 Bismarck du Plessis 1 Dylan Smith.

Bench: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels 17 Lizo Gqoboka 18 Sebastian Lombard 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 Phumzile Maqondwana 21 Keagan Johannes 22 Chris Barend Smith 23 Juan Mostert.


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