PREVIEW: Bulls v Highlanders

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Friday, May 12, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

ROUND 12: Bulls v Highlanders, Sunday May 14, 1.05 am, Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria.

The Highlanders have often struggled at Loftus Versfeld but the Bulls are not the force they have been and there is a rare chance for the New Zealanders. However, they are suffering injury woes and have a rearranged loose forward combination which will be tested by the home side. The Highlanders go into the game unbeaten in their last four games with wins over the Blues (26-20), the Sunwolves (40-15), the Stormers (57-14) and the Cheethas (45-41). The Bulls have two wins from their last four, both of them home games against the Jaguares (26-13) and the Cheetahs (20-14) but lost to the Sunwolves (20-21) and the Crusaders (24-62)

Hanro Liebenberg will become the 19th leader of the Bulls in Super Rugby when taking over the captaincy from injured former Springbok hooker Adrian Strauss who is having scans to determine an issue with his foot. Liebenberg has been out with a hamstring strain and has taken the place of Renaldo Bothma at No.8. Jaco Visagie will take Strauss' place while Lizo Gqoboko has been preferred at prop to Pierre Schoeman. RG Snyman has taken Springbok Lood de Jager's place at lock. Nick de Jager has been replaced by Ruan Steenkamp on the side of the scrum. In the backs Jade Stighling will make his debut on the wing ahead of Travis Ismaiel while Jannes Kirsten has replaced flanker Jacques Potgieter.

Changes have been forced on the Highlanders with Gareth Evans having to move to No.8 to cover for the injured Luke Whitelock. That has brought Dillon Hunt back onto the side of the scrum. He has had an impressive season since being called it but will be up against some big men at the breakdown and Jannes Kirsten. A heavy load will fall on Elliot Dixon who has been working his way back from illness. Ash Dixon will lead the pack from hooker. And in the backling the return of Richard Buckman to second five-eighths should ensure some competitive defence in the mid-field.


Bulls: 1.Lizo Gqoboko, 2.Jaco Visagie, 3.Trevor Nyakane, 4.Jason Jenkins, 5. RG Snyman, 6.Ruan Steenkamp, 7.Jannes Kirsten, 8.Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 9.Piet van Zyl, 10.Tian Schoeman, 11.Jamba Ulengo, 12.Burger Odendaal, 13.Jesse Kriel, 14.Jade Stighling, 15.Warrick Gelant.

Substitutes: 16.Edgar Marutlulle, 17.Pierre Schoeman, 18.Conrad van Vuuren, 19.Lood de Jager, 20.Nic de Jager, 21.Rudy Paige, 22.Tony Jantjies, 23.Jan Serfontein.

Highlanders: 1.Aki Seiuli, 2.Ash Dixon (captain), 3.Siosua Halanukonuka, 4.Alex Ainley, 5.Tom Franklin, 6.Elliot Dixon, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Gareth Evans, 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Marty Banks, 11.Patrick Osborne, 12.Richard Buckman,13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Matt Faddes.

Substitutes: 16.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Joe Wheeler, 20.Jackson Hemopo, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Fletcher Smith, 23.Teihorangi Walden.