Ruan Steenkamp will captain the Vodacom Blue Bulls in their opening SuperSport Rugby Challenge match against the iSG Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday.
The flanker, who captained the team before, will lead a team mixed with experience and youth onto the Mbombela Stadium, with former Springbok Cornal Hendricks and Blitzboks Rosko Specman and Dylan Sage adding international experience to the squad, with another Springbok, Travis Ismaiel providing impact off the bench.
Coach Nollis Marais also handed senior provincial debuts to Muller Uys and Werner Fourie in his starting team.
“It is a tough start to the competition,” said Marais.
“The Pumas are formidable at home and defending champions, so it will be a huge challenge to our squad. We prepared well and have some classy players on the field, so I expect us to deliver a competitive performance,” Marais said.
The team is: Duncan Matthews, Cornal Hendricks, Dylan Sage, Erich Cronje, Rosko Specman, JT Jackson, Andre Warner (v/c), Muller Uys, Adre Smit, Ruan Steenkamp (c), Aston Fortuin, Marius Verwey, Mornay Smith, Werner Fourie, Nqoba Mxoli.
Replacements: Joe van Zyl, Matthys Basson/Madot Mabokela, Ruan Nortje, Stefan Smit, Theo Maree, Theo Boshoff, Travis Ismaiel.