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Bulls v Sharks: Teams
At Loftus Versfeld, Friday February 24, kick-off 17.10 GMT
Frans Ludeke has named nine players who will make their debuts for the Bulls in Friday's Super Rugby opener against the Sharks in Pretoria.
New captain Pierre Spies will lead a side that fields rookies Francois Venter, Jacques Potgieter and Juandré Kruger in the starting XV and CJ Stander, Louis Fouché and JJ Engelbrecht on the bench.
Johann Sadie (Stormers), Jano Vermaak and Willie Wepener (both Lions) have played in the competition before, but for other teams.
Ludeke still selected no fewer than 11 Springboks for the clash and he believes their experience will be vital.
"We have some new faces and we are very excited about their possible contribution, but we also have some old hands with lots of experience and who have won this competition before," Ludeke told the Bulls' official website.
"We have worked hard in pre-season and I am pleased to say that the squad has come together well under Pierre's leadership. We are keen to kick-off our campaign."
He admits that the Sharks will be a massive game first up.
"They beat us at Loftus last year and basically knocked us out of the play-offs, so will have confidence to play here. They are a class side full of internationals and we will have to execute our game plan to perfection to beat them," Ludeke admitted.
Sharks coach John Plumtree has picked Frédéric Michalak at scrum-half after the French veteran impressed in the position during pre-season matches, and will form a half-back pairing with Patrick Lambie.
In another interesting selection JP Pietersen will start his first competitive match at outside centre.
Plumtree selected two debutants, Dale Chadwick at loosehead prop and utility back Paul Jordaan on the bench, while Tim Whitehead and Riaan Viljoen will be playing their first official matches in Sharks colours.
All four have impressed, Chadwick having enjoyed a good season of Currie Cup rugby last year while Jordaan has offered something special with his speed and incisiveness in every outing for the Sharks during the pre-season.
"We're looking forward to the season," Plumtree told the Sharks' official website. "It comes to a point when all the work is done and the players can look forward to a game at the highest level.
"The mood at training is mirroring that, the boys are a bit grumpy and now they just want to get out there and play. We're all looking forward to it."
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (capt), 7 Jaques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Frederic Michalak, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Paul Jordaan.
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