Pretoria - Still reeling after their 42-6 hiding at the hands of Western Province, the Blue Bulls suffered another blow when Springbok flank Deon Stegmann was ruled out for the rest of the season because of a broken arm.
Stegmann injured his arm in Saturday’s one-sided match against Western Province at Newlands and it was in the same place where he had broken his left arm during this year’s Super Rugby season.
Already languishing second from the bottom on the Absa Currie Cup log, the Bulls now find themselves thin at loose forward with Bulls coach Pine Pienaar seriously contemplating calling up South African under-20 captain Wiaan Liebenberg and another under-20 star, Shaun Adendorf.
With the derby against the Lions looming large for the Bulls, Pienaar is likely to replace Stegmann with Warwick Tecklenberg while hopeful that Arno Botha will return next week from his hamstring injury.
“Deon unfortunately broke his arm in the same place as he had earlier this year. He will be out for six weeks which means he won’t play for the remainder of the season,” said Bulls doctor Org Strauss on Monday.
“It is a big blow for us as Deon is one of the most experienced players in a rather young team. We will now have to look at younger players but we still have a guy like Arno who should be back next week while Warwick will be the frontrunner to start this week,” said Bulls forwards coach Denzil Frans.
There was further bad news for the Bulls with Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle still ruled out for another five weeks, which could effectively mean that Ralepelle might also not feature in this year’s Currie Cup. Another Springbok, Bjorn Basson, has two more weeks of rehabilitation.
Frans, though, said that not all hope had been lost at Loftus Versfeld and that after a few strong words, the Bulls should be able to bounce back against the Lions.
While Frans admitted that the short words hit home with the players, there was more emphasis on trying to maintain consistency in winning the remainder of their games in the competition.
“It is obviously not a good thing that we win one weekend and then lose the next. I think our biggest problem at the moment is the lack of consistency in our performances. We did well to recover from our loss against the Cheetahs when we beat the Sharks but then we lost momentum by losing to Western Province. We need to get ourselves up and make sure we put in a better performance against the Lions,” said Frans.
Therewas some good news for the Bulls as hooker Bongi Mbonambi has returned from injury and will be in the running for selection for this weekend’s match.
Meanwhile, the Blue Bulls Company announced Wiaan Liebenberg and William Small-Smith have both extended their contracts.
Liebenberg captained the Junior Boks to a historic IRB Junior World Championship title win this year while Small-Smith took charge of the team in the final pool match against England and the semi-final clash against Argentina when Liebenberg was injured.
Liebenberg is currently captaining the log-leading Blue Bulls Under-21 team, while Small-Smith, who is recovering from a Junior World Cup injury, has played for South Africa at international Sevens level and captained SA Schools.
“This is very good news,” said Bulls Super Rugby coach Frans Ludeke yesterday.
“Wiaan and William are proven leaders among their peers in their age groups and to have both extending their careers in Pretoria is a very positive step in our continued mission to not only produce championship teams, but championship people.”