Bakkies Botha will make his first appearance this year when he runs out for the Bulls in Saturday’s Super 14 match against the Sharks at Loftus — but the Bulls had their fair share of drama before the announcement of the team.
There are five changes and one positional switch to the Bulls side that trounced the Lions 51-11 last weekend.
In one of the changes, Springbok wing Akona Ndungane was set for his Super 14 return after breaking his leg last year. He did it again during training on Wednesday morning, a mere hour before the team announcement.
No information was available at the time of writing how long he would be off the field and whether the injury to the same leg was career-threatening.
Ndungane would have replaced John Mametsa — who was a late replacement last week for Francois Hougaard — following the latter’s withdrawal because of a tight hamstring during the captain’s run.
Hougaard now takes Ndungane’s place after initially being selected on the bench.
In other changes, Jacques-Louis Potgieter takes the place of injured outside centre Jaco Pretorius, but will move to the inside in a swap with Wynand Olivier. Fourie du Preez returns for Heini Adams and Deon Stegmann has his turn to start in place of Derick Kuun.
The return of Botha at lock forces Danie Rossouw to the bench while the impressive Flip van der Merwe has missed out altogether.
Adams was not selected for the match 22 but is now back on the bench because of Hougaard’s promotion to wing.
Stephan Dippenaar, who was dropped when Pretorius returned from injury for last weekend’s match, is back in the squad.
However, Potgieter’s good performance when he replaced Pretorius last weekend gave him the nod to start.
“It’s good to have Bakkies back,” said coach Frans Ludeke. “It is also great to have four locks of the calibre of Bakkies, Victor [Matfield], Danie [Rossouw] and Flip [van der Merwe].”
He added Botha had a good week’s training and that Rossouw, who has been outstanding of late, would be very effective as an impact player.
Matfield said it was “good to have the big guy back. It’s good to be playing with him again — but I must add Danie is playing outstanding rugby and Flip has been tremendous when he had a run.”
Botha missed the last match of the Springbok’s year-end tour and has not played since.
Matfield said they were looking forward to having Ndungane back in the side.
“It’s sad what happened to him. He has been working really hard to return.” — Sapa