Pretoria - The Bulls could be facing a crisis at flyhalf ahead of their all-important Super Rugby clash against the Lions on Saturday.
Handre Pollard left South Africa on Monday with the Junior Springboks on their mission Down Under where they will try to retain the world title they won two years ago on home soil.
Pollard will captain the SA under-20 side at the IRB Junior World Championship, which begins next month in New Zealand meaning that he will be absent from the Bulls bench at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Even though Pollard has had few starts at Super Rugby level, it is the games against the Cheetahs and Stormers where he impressed.
Speculation is rife that he is on the radar of national team coach Heyneke Meyer for the not too distant future.
Pollard’s absence from the Bulls team will leave the Bulls rather thin at flyhalf with Bulls coach Frans Ludeke likely to go searching for a replacement in the lower teams.
Jacques-Louis Potgieter, who last week extended his contract until 2016, will be the obvious starter as has been the case for most of the season but Ludeke will be looking for an outright flyhalf to fill the berth on the bench even though the Bulls do have a few utility players within their squad. The problem for Ludeke is that the three flyhalfs lower down the pecking order have been struggling with injuries and personal issues and they will not be battle hardened enough come Saturday.
Next in line is Louis Fouche but he is struggling to shake off a knee injury he sustained during the Vodacom Cup and there are also rumours of Fouche being courted by a Japanese club. Even if Fouche is fit to play, there is a small issue of whether he will accept the offer from Japan and if he does so this week it will all but rule him out of Saturday’s game.
Fouche had started the first two games of the season for the Bulls but failed to convince Ludeke that he is the man for the job after struggling with his form.
Tian Schoeman had been also featured for the Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup would have been an option but his foot injury will keep him on the sidelines for three months. Ludeke might have to turn to Tony Jantjies as cover at number 10 and hope that the younger of the Jantjies brothers is over the personal strife that saw his dip in form earlier in the year.
Jantjies, who is the younger brother to Lions and Springbok flyhalf Elton, is yet to make his Super Rugby debut but Ludeke could take some comfort in knowing that Jantjies did play well in last year’s Currie Cup campaign for the Bulls.
While Ludeke grapples to find a worthy flyhalf to replace Pollard, the was good news with flank Jono Ross being cleared to play this weekend after sustaining what looked like a concussion in the Bulls win over the Brumbies on Friday.
Fullback Jurgen Visser is also struggling with a knock to his leg but team doctor Org Strauss said Visser should be fit to play against the Lions. Ross and Visser did not train with their teammates on Monday and are expected to join them on Tuesday.