The return of Dewald Potgieter and Deon Stegemann could not have come at a better time as the Bulls embark on a tough tour Down Under.
The Bulls will take on four previous Super Rugby champions in the form of the Blues, Crusaders, Reds and Brumbies.
The 26-man squad include Bulls try scoring ace, Bjorn Basson, although the winger will only joining the squad in a week’s time. Basson injured ankle ligaments last weekend and medical advice suggested that he only travel once the swelling of the injury subsides.
Another boost for the Bulls is that Chiliboy Ralepelle was cleared to travel with the team after he was sighted during the Bulls win against the Force last weekend.
The squad includes one new cap in prop Hencus van Wyk. The former Vodacom Blue Bulls Under-21 player can pack on both sides of the scrum and is match-fit, having played for UP-Tuks in the Varsity Cup.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is hoping that the late departure of the team to New Zealand will help combat the jet lag before the first match against the Blues, who have won two on the trot under the guidance of new coach John Kirwan.
"They are certainly playing a very enterprising style of rugby and deserved both their very convincing wins. We have been good and bad in our two matches, so the obvious aim would be to eliminate the errors and produce the good spells for longer periods."
Ludeke acknowledges the importance of the trip, given the poor record of his side in Auckland, Christchurch, Brisbane and Canberra.
"We will have to pick up points on tour if we want to be around at the business end of the competition. It is true that we have poor records at those venues, but this side has shown in the past that they can set new standards and break down barriers."
The Bulls kick-off their tour against the Blues on March 10, a team they have battled against in the past. In the 13 matches played between the two, the Bulls only won four, with one draw, but often lost heavily. In fact, the average score between the sides is 38-25.
Their record against the Crusaders, whom they play on March 16th, is slightly better, with five wins out of 14 and an average score of 33-23 to the Canterbury side.
The Bulls have beaten their March 23rd opponents, the Reds, in Pretoria quite often, but battle in Brisbane. The Bulls won five out of 12 encounters and lead the aggregate scoring 25-20.
The Brumbies have beaten the Bulls eight times in 12 matches, but it has been a close affair in recent years as the 31-23 scoreline suggest. This clash is on March 30th.
The Bulls squad: Zane Kirchner, Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, Bjorn Basson, Lionel Mapoe, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Jan Serfontein, Louis Fouchè, Mornè Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies (captain), Arno Botha, Jacques Potgieter, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Juandrè Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Frik Kirsten, Mornè Mellett, Hencus van Wyk, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Willie Wepener.
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