Pretoria - If there are indeed rugby gods out there then they must be angry at the Bulls for something as Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann and JJ Engelbrecht have all been ruled out due to injury for the Bulls’ upcoming Super Rugby clash against the Western Force.
The three players got injured during the Bulls’ opening match against the Stormers last Friday and while the Bulls would have celebrated the sweet victory well into the weekend, reality hit them hard on Monday when it was confirmed that Potgieter had a grade two tear in his medial ligaments in his knee while Stegmann is suffering from a hamstring strain and Engelbrecht from a hip flexor.
Gio Aplon of the Stormers gets tackled by Deon Stegmann of the Bulls during their Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday. Photo: Duif du Toi. Credit: Gallo Images
Stegmann and Engelbrecht should be out for 10 days and are expected to be fit and back to training by early next week and should make it for the Bulls’ overseas tour of Australia and New Zealand.
But serious doubt has been cast on whether Potgieter will travel with the Bulls as the length of his injury is said to be three to four weeks.
There were also some bumps and bruises, notably to prop Werner Kruger who suffered a grade one tear in his ankle but should be back at training tomorrow and eligible for selection while Arno Botha is struggling with cellulitis in his knee and Grant Hattingh is sick with the flu.
But it doesn’t seem as though Bulls coach Frans Ludeke will allow the bout of injuries to disrupt his plans to build on the victory against the Stormers.
In fact, Ludeke will have nothing much to worry about this week as Springboks Akona Ndungane and Jacques Potgieter were given the nod to return to training after missing out on the Stormers clash because of injury.
All things being equal, Ludeke should have no problem in finding replacements for the injuries suffered over the weekend with Ndungane and Jacques Potgieter’s presence not only beneficial for the Bulls with the experience they bring, but they are exactly the type of player Ludeke needs in the positions struck by injury.
Ndungane should easily slot back on the right wing in place of Lionel Mapoe who is likely to move to outside centre in place of Engelbrecht.
Mapoe’s move to No13 could be a blessing in disguise for the Bulls as he has excelled in that position in the past two seasons for the Lions and earned a call-up to the Springbok end-of-year squad based on the strength of his performances at outside centre.
While Mapoe’s move to centre will only be confirmed tomorrow at the team announcement, it might not come as a surprise if Ludeke also opts to start with Francois Venter at inside centre with Wynand Olivier moving to the outside. And there is also the remote chance that SA under-20 centre Jan Serfontein could also be looked at.
In the pack the two Potgieters trade places with Dewald watching from the stands while Jacques is likely to start with Botha filling in for Stegmann at No6.
Never a side to wallow on the bad things, the Bulls will take plenty of inspiration from how they played against the Stormers and they will be keen to build on the victory with another one before going on tour.
“ I think the confidence will be huge (going into our next game). All the preparation of the pre-season came together on Friday night and winning the game was always going to mean taking the confidence into the next game.
“If we didn’t win we would be sitting with the pressure of having to win against the Force.
“So I’m very happy for us as a team and we will build on this confidence for our game against the Force,”said Bulls captain Pierre Spies.