Blue Bulls coach Pote Human named an experienced team for Friday night's opening match of the Currie Cup against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (19:00 kick-off).
No 8 Hanro Liebenberg leads the side that will include one Currie Cup debutant, lock Ruan Nortje, in the run-on side at Free State Stadium.
Flanker Thembelani Bholi will make his Blue Bulls debut in the competition, and so will scrumhalf Theo Maree and utility back Earll Dowrie if they take to the field off the bench.
Human said there would be little room for error in the 2018 competition because only a single round of matches was scheduled.
"It is going to be tough to come back if you have a slow start in the competition, so every win will be crucial if you have ambitions to win the Currie Cup this year. It is going to be a very interesting and tense competition this season and we are looking forward to the challenge. Our preparations have gone well and I think this squad will be very competitive," Human said.
Human felt the experience gained by the players in the Super Rugby tournament this year would help in the Currie Cup.
"Most of the players have been involved at that level, so should be able to cope with the pressures they will experience in Bloemfontein on Friday. That said, Free State Stadium can become a very lonely place for a visiting team if you don't front up to a Free State side that will be very motivated to do well at home."
Liebenberg said the Bulls were keen to start on a winning note. "We have the ability, no doubt, so the challenge will be to make sure we play according to that. There are some really good players in both teams and I think we are in for a great game. That is exactly what we want as a group, to be tested against the best out there."
Free State Cheetahs
15 Malcom Jaer, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Nico Lee, 11 William Small-Smith, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Oupa Mohoje (captain), 6 Junior Pokomela, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche Substitutes: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Erich de Jager, 18 Gunther Janse van Vuuren, 19 Dennis Visser, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Louis Fouche
15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 JT Jackson, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Conrad van Vuuren, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Matthys Basson Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 18 Hendre Stassen, 19 Jano Venter, 20 Theo Maree, 21 Tony Jantjies, 22 Earll Douwrie
Read this report on News24Wire.com.
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