Workhorse loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka has been released from the Springbok commitments that have gobbled up his entire Currie Cup campaign thus far and his return to the Blue Bulls team has already been inspirational ahead of their decisive clash with the Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday night.
After proving his enormous appetite for hard work by starting every Super Rugby game, Gqoboka was deservedly called up to the Springbok squad and he came off the bench in the Tests at Ellis Park and Loftus Versfeld against Australia and Argentina respectively.
But he was one of the unfortunate four to be released from the World Cup training squad.
Bulls team-mate, loose forward Marco van Staden, has also been released, and while both are understandably disappointed that their World Cup dream has seemingly ended, coach Pote Human said neither of them have been making a meal of it.
“Lizo has been awesome, he lifted the whole spirit of the squad. Obviously he’s disappointed he didn’t make the World Cup squad but he wants to prove them wrong, Human said.
“Lizo has looked very good in practice, like he has a point to prove and Marco is ready to go too. There are so many good loose forwards in South Africa and Marco is young, but I am sure he will get his chance later.”
Scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl will continue to lead the Bulls, with regular captain Ruan Steenkamp over his concussion and egging the team on from the bench.
While the returns of Gqoboka and Van Staden are the only alterations to the starting line-up, Steenkamp is one of four changes to the replacements.
The Bulls have prised exciting hooker Corniel Els away from the Pumas and he will be the back-up to another young talent in Johan Grobbelaar.
Human is also hoping Junior Springbok flyhalf Vaughen Isaacs can make an impact if he comes on for Manie Libbok, who was brilliant against the Golden Lions in their last match.
The debutant replaces stalwart Marnitz Boshoff, who has suffered another knee injury that requires surgery.
Human admitted he was very concerned the final bell was tolling for the 30-year-old Springbok.
Blue Bulls: Divan Rossouw, Cornal Hendricks, Johnny Kotze, Dylan Sage, Rosko Specman, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl (c), Tim Agaba, Wian Vosloo, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Andries Ferreira, Wiehahn Herbst, Johan Grobbelaar, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Corniel Els, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Conraad van Vuuren, Jean Droste, Ruan Steenkamp, Embrose Papier, Vaughen Isaacs, Stedman Gans.