MIKE BLAIR expects very different conditions today in Pretoria from those which prevailed in Edinburgh the last time his team took on the Bulls, but he is nonetheless convinced that his players can take confidence and inspiration from that result.

Blair’s team beat the Bulls 17-10 on a chill, rainy evening at the DAM Health Stadium last October, but this afternoon’s match in South Africa is set to be played out in strong sunshine. And, while the ground in the shadow of BT Murrayfield is barely a few feet above the Water of Leith, Loftus Versfeld is around 4500 feet above sea level.

Yet while those factors suggest that the Scots will be up against it in their second URC outing of the new season, Blair is looking forward immensely to a contest which he defined yesterday as “a brilliant challenge” for his players. “I think when we played the Bulls at the DAM Health last year it was the most physical performance that we’ve had,” the coach said after announcing a much-changed squad. “We really fronted up against them. We were really aware that we can’t let teams like the Bulls get momentum into their games, so that physicality is going to be absolutely crucial.

“Weather conditions are going to be slightly different. It was probably the first day of winter in late September when we played them last time - the rain was coming down. It’s going to be hot here, but we’ll probably still end up with that slippy ball.

“We’ve looked back at that a little bit and reminded ourselves of what it takes to take on a team like the Bulls.

“I think this will be one of our toughest games of the season. Not only because of the strength of the Bulls side but also the type of game they play - the physicality that they bring, and with the conditions that there’s going to be.

“We believe it will be 28 degrees in the afternoon, we’re playing at altitude as well, so it’s going to be a brilliant test for our guys. It’s really going to test our character.

“I can’t wait - I think it will be a brilliant challenge for us.”

Blair has made seven changes to his starting line-up, strengthening it considerably from the one selected to begin last week’s 44-6 win over the Dragons. The three changes in the back division see James Lang return at centre and Blair Kinghorn and Henry Pyrgos come in as the half-back combination.

Up front, Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel both start after coming off the bench at half-time last week and playing a major role in the 44-6 victory over the Welsh team. Sam Skinner, who made his debut off the bench in that first competitive outing of the season, is promoted to the starting 15 and will partner co-captain Grant Gilchrist, who sat out the Dragons game. Hamish Watson, Luan de Bruin and Jaco van der Walt are also set for their first involvement of the season after being named on the replacements list.

South African international Johan Goosen returns to the Bulls side at full-back after nearly a year out of action with a knee injury. Sbu Nkosi has been called up by the Springboks for their final Rugby Championship match against Argentina, joining his fellow-winger Canan Moodie. But Elrigh Louw has been released from the national squad and starts at No 8.

The Bulls, runners-up last season to the Stormers, got the new URC campaign off to a winning start last week, beating the Lions 31-15 away. "It was good to be able to start the new season on a winning note, beating a tough Lions side in their own backyard,” Bulls director of rugby Jake White said.

"Edinburgh is a tough and talented side. They had an incredible game against Dragons last weekend where they won by a convincing margin. We know how tough they are from our last meeting in the previous season where they beat us.

“We will need to be at our best if we want to get a good result. We expect another tough encounter against a well-coached outfit."

Edinburgh (v the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, today[Sat] 1.30pm British time): H Immelman; D Graham, M Bennett, J Lang, D Hoyland; B Kinghorn, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, D Cherry, W Nel, S Skinner, G Gilchrist (co-captain), J Ritchie (co-captain), L Crosbie, V Mata. Substitutes: S McInally, B Venter, L de Bruin, M Sykes, H Watson, B Vellacott, J van der Walt, C Dean.

Bulls: J Goosen; C Hendricks, L Mapoe, D Kriel, S Jacobs; C Smith, Z Burger; G Steenekamp, J Grobbelaar, M Smith, W Steenkamp, R Nortje, M Coetzee (captain), R Vermaak, E Louw. Substitutes: J-H Wessels, S Matanzima, F Klopper, J Swanepoel, M van Staden, E Papier, M Steyn, S Gans.

Referee: Adam Jones (Wales).