First Francois Hougaard went from scrumhalf to winger, now the Bulls have made another positional switch for loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane when they take on the Hurricanes on Friday.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said yesterday two changes had been made to the team to take on the New Zealanders, plus a positional switch to the side that lost their opening match at the weekend.
Hougaard, who is no stranger to playing wider on the field, was an injury-forced change at the start of the Bulls’ Super Rugby campaign, and has been gunning for the first-choice scrumhalf berth of the Boks.
However, after Akona Ndungane (calf) and Travis Ismaiel (hamstring) had been ruled out, the nippy Hougaard was the obvious choice to carry on at wing.
Injury has played its hand again. Nyakane has been forced to make a switch in the front row following an ankle injury to tighthead Werner Kruger against the Stormers last weekend.
Although Nyakane, 25, is competent on either side of the scrum, he had not played tighthead prop since the 2013 Currie Cup season, and has been attempting to cement his spot in the Bok team as a loosehead.
“Trevor has been tested and proven at tighthead,” Ludeke said. “He has shown that he is capable. He has played there even at test rugby level.”
Injury to the Bulls front row has caused something of a crisis for the side from Loftus. It only has uncapped Junior Springbok Dayan van der Westhuizen, 20, as an injury-free tighthead.
Although Van der Westhuizen was on the bench on Saturday, he never came on, despite the Bulls being shoved back in the scrums.
He will be acting as backup again on Friday night, and should he be given a run, will make his Super 15 debut.
“We want to give Van der Westhuizen the right opportunity. We have the best combination starting this weekend,” Ludeke said.
After defending the Bulls’ scrumming following their 17-29 loss to the Stormers, Ludeke finally admitted yesterday it was a headache for his team.
“I thought when the Stormers made their subs, it was an easier [scrum] battle,” he said.
“Our scrum performance was not good enough. There was a lot of pressure from that and it put us on the back foot.
“We created penalties that gave them field possession and we gave them easy access. We lost two vital turn-overs at the base of the scrum.
“Like in previous weeks, it is still our focus point. We are still positive and excited about what we can do in the scrum.”
Captain Pierre Spies will be making his first start of the season when he replaces an injured Arno Botha at No 8.
In the backline, Jesse Kriel will make his first Super Rugby start after making his debut at the rearend of last season as a substitute and also coming on in the second half for Jurgen Visser at fullback against the Stormers.
“We felt Jesse would be suited for this game. Obviously the ball is going to be played a lot like they [Hurricanes] did last week against the Lions.
“Jesse played well last weekend and has been playing well in the warm-up games. So it’s great to give him that starting opportunity,” Ludeke said. The match starts at 7.10pm. The Bulls team: Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Handre Pollard, Piet van Zyl, Pierre Spies, Lappies Labuschagne, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Morne Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Grant Hattingh, Hanro Liebenberg, Rudy Paige, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Jurgen Visser, Dayan van der Westhuizen. JAPAN may have the beautiful snowcapped Mount Fuji, shark-fin soup and sushi, but if there is something Jean Deysel missed when he was there, it was a simple South Africa braai and the physical nature of Super Rugby.
After all, the Japanese Top League is something approaching the Indian Premier League of domestic rugby, what with the astronomical amount of money on offer for the players and a physicality not much more taxing than touch rugby.
It is a rugby holiday that Deysel enjoyed, but he says nothing beats the thrill and the competitiveness of Super Rugby.
“I missed the braai, to be honest. Japan was a great learning curve and Toyota Verblitz was a great club. They are eager to learn and develop their rugby.
“For me to go there and see that was awesome but this is where I belong and this is where my friends and family are. When I initially signed, I didn’t think I was coming back,” Deysel said.
“I was more nervous for this past game than I was when I started. I played for 30 minutes on Saturday and I battled to get out of the car on Sunday, whereas in Japan I could play on a Saturday and I would be all good on Sunday.
“Super Rugby is more physical and competitive and sometimes you miss that.