Injury-hit Bulls call up reinforcements

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iol spt mar18 Bulls Getty Images The team named in honour of the late Burry Stander raced as Burry Stander would have raced. They won as Burry Stander would have won. Photo by Joseph Johnson

When things are going well for the Bulls they look invincible, but when their fortunes slump it is almost like something out of a horror movie.

When the Bulls arrived at their base in Australia’s Gold Coast yesterday they must have still felt stuck in a scene from the latter.

Their history defying mission to Christchurch ended in disaster as they lost 41-19 to the Crusaders, their first defeat of the season, after a performance the Bulls would rather forget.

As woeful and uninspiring as the Bulls performance was on Saturday, the horror of the loss hit a deep and dark hole yesterday when injuries forced experienced Springboks Wynand Olivier (knee ligaments), Akona Ndungane (fractured cheekbone) and Francois Hougaard (ankle) to return to South Africa midway through their four-match tour Down Under.

It got even worse for the Bulls with news that Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe is doubtful for the clash against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday because of a chest injury while another lock, Grant Hattingh, will sit out training for a day or two after sustaining a knock to the head in Saturday’s dismal showing.

The Bulls were quick to bring in reinforcements for the men returning home with Bjorn Basson, Ruan Snyman, Francois Venter and Paul Willemse to join the team today and certain to be considered for selection. Basson has recovered from an ankle injury that prevented him from leaving with the team two weeks ago while Venter was unlucky not to have made the initial touring party.

Ruan Snyman will in all likelihood be on the bench as cover at scrumhalf while lock Paul Willemse could also be considered for a spot on the bench if Van der Merwe is not fit enough to take the field this weekend.

There is no doubt that Bulls coach Frans Ludeke will also not hesitate to select the fit again Lionel Mapoe and Dewald Potgieter with Mapoe likely to start, while Potgieter could also start on the bench as his experience will add some much needed street credibility to a Bulls cause that has hit a speed bump.

“When you lose experienced players like we have now it is not an ideal situation to be in. We accepted from the beginning of the season that we will get injuries and that we must adapt to whatever comes our way. Those players that are stepping in knowing what is required from them,” said Ludeke yesterday.

Having been brought down to earth by the Crusaders and with doubts lingering on whether the Bulls can derive any sort of success from this tour, Ludeke yesterday moved to assure their fans that his team remained a competitive unit regardless of the grim losses through injury.

“We have no choice but to take it week by week. I really believe that we still have a highly competitive squad with us here. However, for us to win again we will need to be more accurate with our performance on the field, eradicate our mistakes and get our hands on the ball,” Ludeke said yesterday. - Pretoria News



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