Super Rugby

Bulls' new skipper was 'logical' choice

Hanro Liebenberg (Gallo Images)
Hanro Liebenberg (Gallo Images)

Pretoria - Under-fire Bulls coach Nollis Marais says the decision to appoint Hanro Liebenberg as captain for Saturday's clash against the Highlanders at Loftus was the "logical" choice. 

Liebenberg replaces Adriaan Strauss as skipper - the former Springbok hooker out with an injured foot. 

Liebenberg has long been considered a future leader at the Bulls, and he captained them through their Currie Cup campaign last year and is expected to do the same in 2017. 

"Hanro was always my captain going forward, that's why we used him as our captain in the Currie Cup," Marais told media in Pretoria on Thursday.

"I think that Hanro is an excellent leader, with Burger (Odendaal) there too. They've come a long way with me and they are the future of the Bulls. Hanro is a born leader."

Odendaal has been named vice-captain for the Highlanders game. 

When asked whether or not Strauss would have played had he been fit, Marais could not give a definitive answer. 

"I'm unsure, because that decision was taken out of my hands," he said.

"I've always said from the beginning that I would give Jaco (Visagie, hooker) a start. We're at that stage where we also need to try and get the youngsters exposure against the New Zealand sides.

"Most of this team is very young."

Strauss has had a torrid time of late. 

He captained the Boks to just four wins from 12 in 2016 and now at the Bulls he has been at the forefront of one of their darkest years to date. 

Having perfected the art of the losing post-match interview, Strauss' confidence must have taken a dent, Marais says. 

"He didn't go through a great time last year with the Springboks and he had that back operation when he came back," Marais explained.

"The side lost two matches when he came back. If you come back into a side that's winning, then it's easy. But if you come into a side that is not playing well, it's always difficult.

"But to single out one guy wouldn't be right ... it's a team effort, it's a collective effort."

Liebenberg, meanwhile, is not daunted by the prospect of leading a Bulls side that has won just three from nine this season and is coming off the back of a 68-24 thrashing at home against the Crusaders. 

"It's not that much of a burden. We have quality guys out there and it's just about getting the best out of them," the new skipper said.

"We're all grown men and we can make decisions, for me it's just about making the big calls at the right time.

"We just want to go out there and give a better performance to get some respect back from ourselves and the fans."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 15:05.

Teams:

Bulls

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jade Stighling, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg (captain), 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka

Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Coenraad van Vuuren, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tony Jantjies, 23 Jan Serfontein

Highlanders

15 Matt Faddes, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 5 Alex Ainley, 4 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Aki Seiuli

Substitutes: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Teihorangi Walden

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