Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn will bring up a century of provincial games for the Vodacom Bulls this weekend but coach Jake White made a telling change by dropping Marcelle van der Merwe for his side’s semifinal against the Xerox Lions on Saturday.
Of course, while it is another milestone for the veteran flyhalf, it pales in comparison to his other appearance records. Steyn has played 18 times in the Vodacom Cup, five friendlies and 74 provincial games, allowing him to achieve the milestone in this weekend’s match.
Steyn has also amassed 1 489 Super Rugby points in 129 appearances, and had 109 appearances for Stade Francais in the French Top14. Coupled with that he has 66 test matches for the Springboks as well.
But while Steyn’s celebration is another one for a long and illustrious career, Van der Merwe’s absence is understandable as he has struggled in the scrum since returning to Pretoria from Toulon.
Instead the former Springbok coach included Mornay Smith, a young and talented tight head, as the back-up to Springbok Trevor Nyakane for the match.
While White has reverted to his strongest side, he kept the impressive Stravino Jacobs, who has taken his chances in the two games he has played thus far, and will line-up at left wing with Kurt-Lee Arendse returning to the right wing.
Schalk Erasmus will lock down between Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka, as the Bulls prepare for a scrum onslaught from the Lions.
At lock Sintu Manjezi has been preferred with Walt Steenkamp nowhere in the match-day 23. While it may be that Steenkamp is injured, the Bulls have been keeping hush about it, and no injury report has been given.
That means Jan Uys will be on the bench for the Bulls to cover the lock position, with the impressive Ruan Nortje the other lock.
Duane Vermeulen returns to lead the side from the back of the scrum and will continue his partnership in the loose trio with the young Elrigh Louw and Marco van Staden, one of the most impressive players at the breakdown this season.
At the back it’s the regular-season duo of Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans in the midfield and young David Kriel at the back. Morne Steyn starts at flyhalf with Ivan van Zyl his partner as the Bulls look to continue their unbeaten run at home.
The bench sees Springboks Embrose Papier and Arno Botha alongside journeyman Jacques van Rooyen and flyhalf Chris Smith who will look to see the Bulls home.
“Focusing on this weekend has been in our minds for the last two weeks and we have done all we can in terms of preparation. We know how to win and we have to just do that against a team that has pushed us each time we’ve played them,” he added.
The match will kick off at 2pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).
Vodacom Bulls:David Kriel; Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl; Duane Vermeulen (captain), Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Sintu Manjezi, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Erasmus, Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements:Johan Grobbelaar, Jacques van Rooyen, Mornay Smith, Jan Uys, Arno Botha, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marco Jansen van Vuren.