Blue Bulls director of rugby Mitchell rings the changes after embarrassing defeat to the Pumas

30 August 2017 - 15:28
By Mahlatse Mphahlele
John Mitchell (Executive of Rugby) during the Vodacom Blue Bulls press conference at Loftus Versfeld on May 25, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images John Mitchell (Executive of Rugby) during the Vodacom Blue Bulls press conference at Loftus Versfeld on May 25, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa.

Blue Bulls executive of rugby John Mitchell has made significant changes to the side to face the Griquas at Loftus on Friday night as a response for their embarrassing 51-15 Currie Cup away loss to the Pumas last week.

Prop Lizo Gqoboka‚ lock Ruben van Heerden‚ flanker Jannes Kirsten‚ No8 Nic de Jager‚ centre JT Jackson and fullback Warrick Gelant are the only survivors after the Bulls' heavy defeat in Nelspruit.

Gqoboka will form a new front row with Dayan van der Westhuizen and Edgar Marutlulle‚ who both came off the bench last weekend‚ while Van Heerden's new lock partner is Aston Fortuin.

Fortuin has replaced the injured Abongile Nonkontwana.

Fortuin will be making his Bulls debut in the Currie Cup while Shaun Adendorff is the newcomer among the loose forwards where he has replaced injured Boom Prinsloo.

Mitchell also opted for a new halfback combination in Ivan van Zyl and Marnitz Boshoff to replace Andre Warner and Joshua Stander.

Johnny Kotze is promoted from the bench to the starting line-up and will combine with JT Jackson in the midfield while two new wings Rabs Maxwane and Duncan Matthews have been named after recovering from injury.

The match will also see the introduction of former EP Kings player Tim Agaba‚ who has been included on the bench and is due for his Blue Bulls debut.

Agaba is returning to fifteens rugby after a hugely successful stint with the sevens where he collected a bronze medal at the Olympic Games and won the HSBC Sevens World Series trophy with the Blitzboks.

“We are still busy developing as a team‚" Mitchell explained.

"We are adapting to a new playing style and philosophy and I am giving a number of players the opportunity to be exposed to that in a match situation.

"We have certainly not given up on the season.

"In fact‚ these players do have the talent and ability to perform at this level‚ but it is an extensive overhaul that will take some time.”

Nic de Jager‚ who along with Ruben van Heerden are the only two players who started in all the matches this season‚ also had a pragmatic approach.

“We already played Griquas in Kimberley and really had to dig deep to beat them‚" the captain said.

"They have since scored a couple of impressive wins‚ while our results were not good‚ so this will be a huge challenge.

"We have to front up though and take responsibility of our performances. There is only one way to rectify ourselves and that is on the field of play."

Blue Bulls Team: 15. Warrick Gelant‚ 14. Duncan Matthews‚ 13. Johnny Kotze‚ 12. JT Jackson‚ 11. Rabs Maxwane‚ 10. Marnitz Boshoff‚ 9. Ivan van Zyl‚ 8. Nic de Jager (c)‚ 7. Jannes Kirsten‚ 6. Shaun Adendorff‚ 5. Ruben van Heerden‚ 4. Aston Fortuin‚ 3. Dayan van der Westhuizen‚ 2. Edgar Marutlulle‚ 1. Lizo Gqoboka.

Replacements: 16. Johan Grobbelaar‚ 17. Matthys Basson‚ 18. Jano Venter‚ 19. Tim Agaba‚18. Andre Warner‚ 19. Tony Jantjies/Trinus de Beer‚ 20. Franco Naude/Stedman Gans.

 - TimesLIVE