No 8 Nizaam Carr will skipper the Vodacom Bulls against Lyon at Matmut Stadium on Friday night as they look to secure safe passage to the last 16 of the Champions Cup.
He starts in the back row with Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink in a matchday 23 that includes a new front row of Simphiwe Matanzima, Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Klopper, while Ruan Vermaak will pair up with Janko Swanepoel in the second row.
At the back, scrumhalf Embrose Papier, flyhalf Johan Goosen and inside center Cornal Hendricks come into the starting XV with Zak Burger and Chris Smith set to start off the bench, alongside Johann Grobbelaar, Gerard Steenekamp, Mornay Smith, Elrigh Louw, Lionel Mapoe and club captain Ruan Nortje.
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The Herd are on a quest for a third victory of their debut Champions Cup campaign, hoping to emulate their 42-36 victory over Lyon on home soil in the opening round of the competition.
Bulls assistant coach Chris Rossouw said that the team rotation was done to look after the players and ensure that their welfare remains a top priority.
“Basically, it is part of player welfare and rotation because Ruan [Nortje] has played every minute of rugby of every match he has played, since the beginning of the season. The same with Harold [Vorster], since making his return from injury has played a lot of rugby, so it is important to manage him well too. This is all part of the rotation plan that we have had since the beginning of the year.
“It’s important when in a group, to have your name in the team sheet as a player that can play these games. And when you get the chance, look to execute the job in the first 60 minutes.”
Rossouw also touted his side to face a staunch challenge from their French opponents: “We believe that our team can do the job for us. We know it will be extremely difficult, Lyon is a top side, I think they are in the top six in the French Top 14. Last week, Saracens were stretched when they came here and so we know it will be a difficult outing.
“It is our first time in France and that is a new experience, it is extremely cold and that presents a great challenge for us but the guys are quite excited because they know that Lyon will pick their best side because they still have a chance of making it.
“In any game, a win is important for us but the most important thing for us is the process I think in the last two games we managed the games quite well and that momentum is important for us. For us it will be how we handle that pressure and make sure that the lessons we have learned over the last year help us manage the momentum of the game.”
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Commenting on the weather conditions and the impact they will have on the game, he added: It is obviously extreme, last week we played in 35 degrees [in Pretoria] and now in subzero conditions [in France]. However, this is a challenge that over time we have come to embrace.”
Their French hosts, are still without a win in the 2022-23 edition of the competition and will surely look to correct this in the final pool fixture, making this an appetizing clash across the two hemispheres.
In Pool A, only five sides have already confirmed their qualification for the round of 16; Leinster, the Sharks, Saracens, the Exeter Chiefs and Edinburgh with three spots up for
grabs going into the final round of fixtures.
The Bulls travel to Lyon in sixth, five points adrift the pool-topping Leinster and seven points ahead of Lyon, who are in 10th. Only a point separates the Bulls from Edinburgh and Exeter, with Harlequins in seventh (7 points) and Racing 92 in provisional eighth ahead of this weekend’s matches.
Bulls – 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14. Canan Moodie, 13. Wandisile Simelane, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 David Kriel, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Nizaam Carr (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Janko Swanepoel , 4 Ruan Vermaak, 3 Francois Klopper, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Simphiwe Matanzima.
Subs: 16 Johann Grobbelaar, 17 Gerard Steenekamp, 18 Mornay Smith, 19 Ruan Nortje, 20 Elrigh Louw, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Lionel Mapoe.