Due to the rescheduling of matches, Duane Vermeulen may be back to captain the Bulls in their crucial clash against the Lions on 6 January. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Due to the rescheduling of matches, Duane Vermeulen may be back to captain the Bulls in their crucial clash against the Lions on 6 January. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Covid-19 tough to handle, but Bulls benefit from rescheduled fixtures

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Dec 22, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - The Blue Bulls are not being favoured above other teams when it comes to matches affected by positive Covid-19 cases.

That was the word from SA Rugby yesterday after the Pretoria team had their last two Currie Cup encounters shifted to later dates “to combat the threat of Covid-19 infection”.

Saturday’s top-of-the-log clash against the Golden Lions at Loftus has been moved to 6 January, while their final round-robin game against the Pumas in Mbombela has been rescheduled from 8-10 January.

SA Rugby have cancelled four matches affected by Covid-19 cases this season: Lions v Cheetahs, Lions v Pumas, Sharks v Stormers and Griquas v Bulls.

Another match, Bulls v Pumas, was shifted from a Friday to a Saturday due to the Mpumalanga side having to wait for players to be cleared to play.

So, it would be easy for Lions fans to feel that their team have been hard done by, as they have lost out on two matches, while the Bulls are getting an opportunity to play their games after a high number of positive Covid-19 cases.

But SA Rugby general manager: communications, Andy Colquhoun, told Pretoria News yesterday that the Bulls v Lions game was rescheduled “by mutual agreement” between the two unions.

Previous matches affected by Covid-19 could not be replayed due to teams being unable to agree on a revised date, which resulted in those games being declared a draw, with both teams receiving two log points.

But with the Bulls (35 points) leading the Lions (29) by six points, both teams want to secure a home semi-final and final, and have found another date to play.

The Bulls were due to have another round of Covid-19 tests yesterday, so it is unclear when they will be able to resume training.

But while managing the impact of Covid-19 is difficult, there is no doubt that Jake White’s team will benefit significantly from the rejigged schedule.

The more than three-week delay between their last match – the 32-29 loss to the Sharks on 12 December – and the Lions clash on 6 January gives captain Duane Vermeulen a chance to be part of the important Gauteng derby, which he would otherwise have missed out on as he had been given a few weeks off.

Injured players such as Lizo Gqoboka and possibly Elrigh Louw may be able to recover in time as well.

It also means that the Bulls avoid facing the Lions in red-hot form. Coach Ivan van Rooyen’s squad are on a four-match winning streak – having beaten Griquas, Western Province, the Cheetahs and Sharks – and would probably have been the favourites this weekend.

In contrast, the Bulls would have been lacking in confidence after going down to the Sharks and having the Griquas game in Kimberley cancelled.

The Lions’ task is made even tougher by the fact that they have to take on the Pumas in Mbombela on 2 January, followed by the Bulls at Loftus on 6 January.

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