Bulls forced into late change

Wing Akona Ndungane suffered a hamstring injury and will be replaced by Francois Hougaard at number 11.

Bulls winger Akona Ndungane has been forced to withdraw from the match against the Highlanders with a hamstring injury. Picture: Facebook.com

CAPE TOWN - The Bulls were forced into a late change to their backline to face the Highlanders when winger Akona Ndungane pulled a hamstring during the captains run in Dunedin.

Francois Hougaard, who was picked at scrumhalf for this match, shifts to the wing to cover for Ndungane. Reserve scrumhalf Piet van Zyl moves up from the bench to start at number nine, while Van Zyl's place on the bench will be taken by Ulrich Beyers.

It will be Van Zyl's first start at scrumhalf since he moved from the Cheetahs at the end of last season.

The match will also see Werner Kruger becoming the 10th Bulls player to reach a century of Super Rugby caps for the team. The other centurions for the franchise are Bakkies Botha (100), Akona Ndungane (102), Pierre Spies (103), Wynand Olivier (108), Fourie du Preez (112), Pedrie Wannenburg (113), Danie Rossouw (116), Victor Matfield (122) and Mornè Steyn (123).

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says possession will be key in beating the Highlanders as the Pretoria side look to bounce back from their five point loss to the Hurricanes last week.

"Last weekend was such a close game. It's a pity that it had to end before we could work another penalty or opportunity. Obviously all the New Zealand sides like to have the ball in hand and string phases together and try to break you down that way. But we also like to keep the ball and build pressure that we can convert into points."

Injuries have resulted in Victor Matfield's inclusion in the starting XV, with the lock forward originally meant to only be part of the coaching staff on tour.

Ludeke says the team can benefit from the former Bok's experience

"We opted for Victor, because Grant (Hattingh) can also cover at loose forward. With Victor back, Flip (van der Merwe) shifts back to his position at four, where he did a job for us last weekend. With Paul Willemse on the bench and Victor and Flip starting, we believe that is a winning combination."

Bulls team to play the Highlanders: Jurgen Visser, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Piet van Zyl, Grant Hattingh, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling.

Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Marcel van der Merwe, Morné Mellett, Paul Willemse, Jacques Engelbrecht, Handré Pollard, William Small-Smith, Ulrich Beyers.