Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith is urging caution as prop Murphy Walker prepares for his first appearance of the season against the Bulls in Pretoria.  

The 24-year-old Scotland international has been hit by a number of injuries, and has hardly featured since Smith took over as head coach two years ago.  

But he’ll start at Loftus Versfeld in a side that shows 11 changes from the win over Zebre two weeks ago.  

READ MORE: Murphy Walker set for first appearance of season against Bulls

Smith is looking forward to the prop taking his chance.  

He said: “We’re very excited to have him back and he is very excited to contribute. The benefit of him not being able to play for a long time allowed him to physically develop well. 

Scotland Rugby News: Murphy Walker starts at Loftus VersfeldMurphy Walker starts at Loftus Versfeld (Image: SNS)

“He’s worked hard in various components of his body composition and hopefully he can now hit the ground running.

"I’ve got huge amount of faith in what the medical team and the S&C team did in preparation to get him performance ready.  

“I’m looking forward to seeing him back there and contributing.” 

Asked if Walker, a product of Dundee Eagles and Strathallan School, could become a long-term challenger for Zander Fagerson’s starting berth, Smith urged caution. 

“We mustn’t get overexcited,” the Glasgow boss said.  

Smith added: “Let him start playing first. Any extra pressure on his performance might limit his ability to grow. He’s got a long way to go.  

“Zander is close to 70 Test matches [he has 67 caps] and it is going to take Murphy time to catch up to that.  

“For now he needs to find his feet again in our environment. He has to just find his rhythm, find his way and stay injury-free is our first objective.” 

Jamie Bhatti also returns from injury in the front row in a completely new pack from the win in Parma, while hooker Grant Stewart will make his 50th appearance for the club as he steps in for the injured Gregor Hiddleston.  

Smith explained the hooker picked up a calf problem in the closing stages of the win over Zebre.  

READ MORE: Scotland summer tour options assessed as injuries mount

He said: "With George Turner not being available and Fraser out I didn’t want to risk anybody else. With Johnny [Matthews] recovering [on the bench], we decided to leave him [Hiddleston] out.  

“Hopefully, nothing will happen next week and it’ll give him three weeks to get back to fitness.” 

He is one of 12 players unavailable to the Warriors for a clash that could go a long way to determining where they finish the URC season. 

Those injuries mean Gregor Brown – usually a flanker - has been selected in the second row alongside Scott Cummings, with the international trio of Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey making up the loose forwards.  

While Brown might be out of his comfort zone, Smith believes he can thrive in his new role.

Scotland Rugby News: Gregor Brown will start in the second row for Glasgow, rather than his preferred back-row berth.Gregor Brown will start in the second row for Glasgow, rather than his preferred back-row berth. (Image: SNS)

“He did extremely well last week coming on against Zebre,” he added.  

“He's a very good ball carrier. He's going to climb in there, then with Max [Williamson, on the bench] and Scott Cummings to close out the game for us hopefully.  

“We have a strategy to manage the altitude and the energy levels of the boys and for him to go out and set the tone high is important. He has really put his hand up for that responsibility." 

Behind the scrum, there is a new half-back pairing as George Horne and Tom Jordan replace Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson, who again drops out of the 23 altogether with Duncan Weir preferred on the bench.  

The four players who keep their places are all in the three-quarters: centre pairing Sione Tuipulotu and Stafford McDowall, captain Kyle Steyn on the right wing and fullback Josh McKay.  

The other change sees Argentina winger Sebastian Cancelliere return in place of Kyle Rowe, and Smith is looking forward to the battle between his international wingers and the Bulls’ Springbok pairing of Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse.  

Scotland Rugby News: Kurt-Lee Arendse scored for South Africa against Scotland at the World CupKurt-Lee Arendse scored for South Africa against Scotland at the World Cup (Image: PA)

“I think it's a good match-up,” he added.  

“Seb's international career and the way he's been going about his business will challenge the opponents, and Kyle is an experienced campaigner.  

“We're optimistic we can stick to what we want to do so they must adapt to that.” 

The teams

Bulls: Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, David Kriel, Harold Vorster, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Embrose Papier; Gerhard Steenekamp, Akker van der Merwe, Wilco Louw, Ruan Vermaak, Ruan Nortje (c), Marcon van Staden, Elrigh Louw (c), 8. Cameron Hanekom 

Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Reinhardt Ludwig, Nizaam Carr, Zak Burger, Jaco van der Valt, Devon Williams 

Glasgow Warriors: Josh McKay, Kyle Steyn (c), Stafford McDowall, Sione Tuipulotu, Sebastian Cancelliere, Tom Jordan, George Horne; Jamie Bhatti, Grant Stewart, Murphy Walker, Gregor Brown, Scott Cummings, Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey 

Replacements: Johnny Matthews, Nathan McBeth, Zander Fagerson, Max Williamson, Euan Ferrie, Henco Venter, Jamie Dobie, Duncan Weir