PRETORIA - Three games in seven days did not only take a toll on the Blue Bulls' Currie Cup spot but they have also been hit hard by a spate of injuries ahead of their encounter against the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday.
The Bulls fell out of the top three on the log and into fourth place after two successive defeats to the Sharks and Western Province but their biggest concern will be the injuries.
Wings Travis Ismaiel and Duncan Matthews both suffered knee injuries with Ismaiel sustaining his against the Sharks and is expected to be out for four weeks while Matthews went for a scan yesterday and is unlikely to play against the Cheetahs.
The Bulls will probably look to start with Kefentse Mahlo and Jamba Ulengo on the wing against the Cheetahs while Junior Springbok fullback Manie Libbok will in all probability have recovered from the illness that saw him withdraw late from Saturday’s defeat at Western Province.
There could be more personnel available to coach Nollis Marais amongst the backs with utility back Ulrich Beyers finally recovering from a calf strain while Johnny Kotze is also fit and should be available for selection.
At hooker the Bulls face a crisis of a lack of experience with Jaco Visagie out again for another two weeks after suffering the same shoulder injury that had kept him out at the beginning of the season. It leaves Jan-Henning Campher and Johan Grobbelaar as the available match fit number twos.
Former Kings and Lions hooker Edgar Marutlulle has recovered from an ankle injury and team doctor Herman Rossouw says he could be an option for the weekend.
Jannes Kirsten will also miss out after spraining his ankle at Newlands but Rossouw is confident that the ginger haired flank will return in time to make the trip to Mbombela to face the Pumas in two weeks’ time.
Kirsten is likely to be replaced by Abongile Nonkotwana while Marais will have to find another ball-carrying loose forward amongst the lean pickings of his squad.
Springbok Sevens loose forward Tim Agaba arrives at Loftus this week but is still recovering from an ankle injury and might only be available at the beginning of the second round of the competition.