Jake White ‘can’t guarantee’ Covid-affected Bulls will be fit for semi-final
CAPE TOWN - Willem Strauss, the president of the Blue Bulls Rugby Union, has experienced the highs and lows of Loftus Versfeld over many decades.
From the Naas Botha era of local dominance, to losing every single Super 12 game in 2001, then winning three Super Rugby titles to what he called a “decade of headache”, Strauss has been an ever present figure in Pretoria rugby circles.
Now as the head of the organisation, it is understandable that he is unable to hide his absolute glee at where the Bulls find themselves right now. They won the Super Rugby Unlocked title, and topped the Currie Cup log ahead of the semi-finals in what Strauss says is the first time since 2005.
“In the Jake White era, the Bulls have not lost at Loftus, exactly what we wanted: Loftus has become a fort again!” he exclaimed in his WhatsApp ‘broadcast' message after the 22-15 win over the Lions on Wednesday, while also remembering that they last won the Currie Cup in 2009.
But Strauss, and White, will know that the golden trophy has not been secured yet. The Bulls still need to negotiate Sunday's last league game against the Pumas in Mbombela (4.30pm kick-off), although that's not too much of a hindrance as the top players can be rested.
However, they are not out of the woods yet when it comes to Covid-19 disruptions, even though the semi-final against the Lions is only scheduled for January 16.
White spoke about having an Under-21 backline on Wednesday, as the likes of Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks and Kurt-Lee Arendse were observing Covid-19 protocols.
Lock Walt Steenkamp was not ready either, while others such as Sintu Manjezi, Nizaam Carr and Marco Jansen van Vuren were sidelined too, and it is not certain that they will feature in the semi-final.
“The interesting thing is that I am very happy because a lot of them are negative. But what happened for us is that there is this return-to-play protocol, and the screening they do – if your heart or whatever is not consistent … A lot of them are fine, but it was just too much of a risk to actually push them into a game situation,” White said.
“Having had it (the coronavirus), I appreciate that it's not so much ‘Listen, c'mon, vasbyt and get on the field'. It's a serious thing, so I'm comfortable that by the time we play the semi-final in another 10 days' time, they will be negative.
“But I can't guarantee you that, because I don't know how their returnto-play protocol is going to work out. You don't know how their heartbeat and respiratory (system) will react and be fully functional.”
The former Springbok boss mentioned wing Stravino Jacobs and lock Jan Uys among the new faces that impressed, so he is confident about calling on them if required in the semi-final.
Meanwhile, the Bulls announced yesterday that impressive young lock Ruan Nortje has signed a contract extension that will keep him in Pretoria for the foreseeable future.