Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Pote Human said the decision to drop Dries Scholtz for their decisive game against the Sharks was one of the toughest he has made all season.
Returning Springbok Wynand Olivier was always expected be re-instated at inside centre (where Scholtz has deputised recently), which meant it was a straight race between JP Nel and Scholtz.
“The final decision about the centre combination was a really difficult one, especially because Dries had such a great game against the Pumas last week,” Human told Morris Gilbert of Beeld.
“We wanted to make place for Wynand in the starting lineup and we think he plays his best rugby at inside centre.
“That left us with the choice between Dries and JP for the outside centre spot and in the end we decided to go with JP because of his experience playing in the position.”
But Human sounded a warning to Nel, who has failed to produce the dynamic displays of direct, line-breaking rugby of last season.
“Dries has all the right to feel unlucky that he has lost his place in the team but having said that, JP will know that he has to pull his socks up because he has not played to his full potential this season,” he said.
Human said his side were looking forward to their trip to the Absa Stadium Durban.
“We hear there is going to be a capacity crowd, which, contrary to what people might think, is a good thing for us. A full stadium will be the perfect atmosphere to bring out the best in the players,” he said.
Human was under no illusions about the magnitude of the task that awaits his team on Saturday.
“It’s going to be very difficult to beat them, but it won’t be impossible. The return of the our Springboks combined with the win over the Pumas has done a lot for the self confidence of this side.”
Sharks: 15 JP Pietersen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Adrian Jacobs, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 AJ Venter (captain), 7 Jacques Botes, 6 Warren Britz, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Brendon Botha, 2 Bismark du Plessis, 1 Kees Lensing. Replacements: 16 Jody Jenneker, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Ryan Kankowski, 19 Solly Tyibilika, 20 Scott Mathie, 21 Frans Steyn, 22 Brent Russell.
Vodacom Blue Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Marius Delport, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Heini Adams, 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, 7 Hilton Lobberts, 6 Pierre Spies, 5 Francois van Schouwenburg, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Rayno Gerber 2 Gary Botha (captain), 1 Jaco Engels. Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Danie Thiart, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19 Derick KuÃ¼n, 20 Neil Powell, 21 MornÃ© Steyn, 22 Stefan Basson.