Pretoria – What looks like a scourge of injuries to have hit the Bulls has been turned into a golden opportunity to flex their muscles ahead of their clash against the Western Force on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld.
On Wednesday morning the Bulls were hit with more bad news on the injury front – veteran and star Springbok wing Akona Ndungane was withdrawn from the starting team because he failed to recover from an ankle injury, which also kept him out of the opening game against the Stormers last week.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said: “We had a unit session in the morning and Akona was still suffering from some pain in his ankle. Akona won’t be fit to play.”
However, Ludeke has used the opportunity to unleash speedster Sampie Mastriet who will be making his debut at Super Rugby level.
“Sampie will start in his place. It is a small injury that we need to manage.”
Ludeke believes that the 22-year-old Mastriet will be a valuable addition to the Bulls team and even though diminutive in stature, he has plenty of pace and is especially dangerous in broken play.
Mastriet has already played for the national Sevens team making his debut in Hong Kong three years ago. At the tournament in Adelaide, Australia, he scored six tries in a single day while his rise within the Bulls structure has seen Mastriet play in all the junior and senior teams.
“He (Mastriet) had a very good Currie Cup and is an exciting player through his entire career. He is a devastating player especially in broken play and is a good finisher.
“This is a great opportunity for him and he has been waiting for this opportunity for four years and we believe he is the best finisher on the wing and the next best guy in that position,” Ludeke said at Wednesday’s team announcement at Loftus.
While the injuries would have somewhat disrupted Ludeke’s plans, there is an air of excitement at those players coming in especially in the loose forwards where Jacques Potgieter, who has extended his Bulls contract to 2015, replaces Dewald Potgieter and Arno Botha comes in for the injured Deon Stegmann.
“They can’t wait to get onto the field and make a difference for the team. This is the great thing about our squad, we have depth there. Jacques is a solid ball carrier and a good defender as well and he worked very hard in the off season on his mobility and getting around the field.
“Arno is a promising youngster and in the role as an openside fetcher, we have confidence that he will force some turnovers and make some good reads. He has got the ability to carry the ball which gives us an extra ball carrier,” Ludeke said.
The Bulls will also have an opportunity to play a potentially match winning centre combination of Wynand Olivier and Lionel Mapoe, who has moved from the wing to number 13 to replace the injured JJ Englebracht.
Meanwhile Springbok and Bulls loose forward Jacques Potgieter has extended his contract with the Blue Bulls until 2015, it was announced on Wednesday. – Pretoria News