The Vodacom Blue Bulls will play Pierre Spies against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday despite fears that he may not have fully recovered from injury.
The Springbok loose forward passed a fitness test late yesterday but was doubtful all week after sustaining a knee injury in the final Tri-Nations match of the season at Ellis Park.
The news would have bolstered coach Pote Human, who wasted no time in thrusting his 20-year-old prodigy into the cauldron of the Absa Stadium.
Human though was pragmatic about his expectations of the youngster and said he would look to the experienced players to perform on the day.
“We can’t expect Pierre to be the only spark,” Human told Morris Gilbert of Beeld. “Our senior players must excel because the Sharks will want to win just as much as we will and they will field a formidable team.”
The Sharks have definitely been less impacted by Saru’s decision to rest the contracted Springboks than the Bulls have been.
While John Smit, Albert van den Berg and Percy Montgomery will miss the game, the Sharks will be able to field Springboks Johan Muller, Butch James, Ruan Pienaar and JP Pietersen, while Brett Russell and Solly Tyibilika have both spent most of the season with the Boks and are likely to be involved in the game.
The Bulls will be without Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Chiliboy Ralelpele, who has been relegated to the U21 side, while Spies, Wynand Olivier, Pedrie Wannenburg and Akona Ndungane will start.
Bryan Habana is still injured.
Human though remained optimistic about the game but warned that his pack would have to improve on their performance in the first round encounter with the Sharks. He also said they would have to try to nullify the influence of the half-back pairing of Pienaar and James.
“In the last game against them, Ruan thrived behind a pack that was on the front foot for most of the game, and if that happens again we can be sure he, together with Butch will cause trouble all game.
“The key will be to stay disciplined for the 80 minutes, not like our game against Western Province where we conceded eight penalties in the first ten minutes.
“If we give the Sharks an opportunity like that they will punish us.”