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Bulls want to feed off energy of Loftus crowd against Stormers

Manie Libbok of the Bulls (C) and his team mates react during the round six Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Bulls on March 23, 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Bulls Manie Libbok of the Bulls (C) and his team mates react during the round six Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and the Bulls on March 23, 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Image: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

After three consecutive losses on the road‚ the Bulls are hoping that the comfort of home will give them an advantage when they take on the Stormers in their eagerly-anticipated Super Rugby match at Loftus on Saturday.

Over the past three weeks‚ John Mitchell’s men have lost to the Reds‚ Chiefs and the Crusaders on tour in Australia and New Zealand but captain Burger Odendaal feels that the energy from the home crowd will be a huge boost.

“We started the season well but the results on tour were not what we wanted to achieve. Back home at Loftus now‚ we hope to find that extra gear to get our season back on track‚” he said‚ adding that the Bulls scarcely need motivation for a huge clash against the Capetonians.

“No one in this team needs motivation to play well against the Stormers. They are on a roll and we need to be at our very best if we want to stay in the contest‚” Odendaal said.

Former Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss will become the most experienced South African in the competition when he takes to the field as he will be appearing in his 149 match to better the record of Victor Matfield who played 148 matches.

Strauss‚ who made his debut for the Bulls in 2006‚ is one of four changes to the starting team for this North-South derby.

The veteran will start in place of Jaco Visagie‚ who moves to the bench‚ with Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier also swopping roles after the latter started at scrumhalf against the Crusaders last week.

The same will apply at blindside flank where Marco van Staden will earn a first start of the year with Roelof Smith playing off the bench.

Mitchell also moved Hanro Liebenberg to lock in place of injured Lood de Jager in a switch that has resulted in Thembelani Bholi slotting into the No. 7 jersey vacated by Liebenberg.

The changes resulted in new combinations in the front row‚ lock‚ loose trio and the halfback positions but Mitchell does not believe it will affect the overall performance.

“Whether you start or finish the game‚ I still expect a 100% effort from all the players and we want to start strong and finish strong.

“This will require a collective effort from all 23 players in the squad and everyone is well aware of their roles and responsibilities‚” Mitchell said‚ as he also congratulated Strauss on his landmark.

“Adriaan has been a true servant of South African rugby and has left his mark with the Bulls‚ so it is fitting that he could reach that milestone in front of his home crowd.

“The Stormers are not travelling here for sentimental reasons‚ though‚ so neither can we take the field with those. It will be a typical derby no doubt.”

Bulls Team: Warrick Gelant‚ Travis Ismaiel‚ Jesse Kriel‚ Burger Odendaal‚ Divan Rossouw‚ Handre Pollard‚ Ivan van Zyl‚ Tim Agaba‚ Thembelani Bholi‚ Marco van Staden‚ Hanro Liebenberg‚ Jason Jenkins‚ Trevor Nyakane‚ Adriaan Strauss‚ Pierre Schoeman

Replacements: Jaco Visagie‚ Frans van Wyk‚ Lizo Gqoboka‚ Hendre Stassen‚ Roelof Smit‚ Embrose Papier‚ Manie Libbok‚ Johnny Kotze

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