The Bulls have been dealt a massive injury blow ahead of their Super rugby clash against the Cheetahs tomorrow with news that captain Pierre Spies will not be available to play because of an elbow injury.
Spies had earlier this week downplayed his injury which he sustained during the game against the Sharks. But the decision was taken by the Bulls medical team yesterday to withdraw Spies from the team.
Jacques Engelbrecht will replace Spies at the base of the scrum, with former Junior Springboks captain Wiaan Liebenberg coming onto the bench.
While losing Spies will be a blow to the Bulls, the inclusion of Engelbrecht, who played for the Southern Kings in last year’s Super Rugby competition, will add firepower to the Bulls loose trio. Engelbrecht adds ball carrying abilities and mobility.
His inclusion could also add greater presence of the Bulls loose forwards in the rucks, where the Sharks ran riot last weekend.
But the biggest call made by the Bulls management yesterday was the elevation of Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe to leading the team in Bloemfontein tomorrow. Akona Ndungane is the vice-captain.
Van der Merwe has not led a Bulls team since his arrival at Loftus Versfeld four years ago. It will be a major test of character for the often abrasive and robust lock who started his professional rugby career at the Cheetahs.
As emotional and sentimental as the moment will be tomorrow evening for Van der Merwe, it will be important for the men in blue to focus on getting their Super Rugby campaign back on track. What happened last weekend may seem like a minor hiccup, but if allowed to carry on then the Bulls cold find themselves in a spot of bother.
While the Bulls have never lost a Super Rugby game against the Cheetahs, there can be no assumption that the result is a foregone conclusion. The Bulls will need to work exceptionally hard considering that the Cheetahs are also coming off a shock loss at the hands of the Lions.
“I think they will be disappointed with the result, playing at home and losing. But we are also coming off a loss. It will be another tough 80 minutes. We’ve always enjoyed playing against them and Friday night might be another night like that,” said Spies earlier in the week.
But Spies warned his teammates against relying on what had happened previously and said that his team’s attitude on the day had to be one of wanting to win at all costs.
Bulls team: Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Louis Fouché, Francois Hougaard, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe (captain), Werner Kruger, Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Frik Kirsten, Marcel van der Merwe, Victor Matfield, Wiaan Liebenberg, Piet van Zyl, Handré Pollard, Ulrich Beyers. - Pretoria News