PRETORIA - The loss of Manie Libbok due to appendicitis on Thursday was a big blow for the Blue Bulls, but they will now have Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard on the bench for their Currie Cup clash against the Sharks tomorrow.
Pollard along with Springbok teammate Rudy Paige’s release from the national team to play Currie Cup rugby had caused a bit of a storm after Bulls coach John Mitchell had stated that he would not be considering them for the game.
Mitchell’s explanation was reasonable and fair considering that it has only been a month since taking over the reins of the team and he was still busy laying a foundation with the players at his disposal.
But as luck would have it, Libbok’s sudden illness has paved the way for Pollard to get some much-needed game time, while also giving the Bulls some extra fire power on their bench.
“As good as Handre is it is always difficult for a new player coming back in to get rhythm, it’s all about timing and getting used to the intuitiveness of the teammates you play around in terms of attack and defence,” Mitchell said.
"It does take time and that is the way it works. You need to be working together for periods of time but you expect the better players and some of the best players in the world to adjust to that a lot quicker than others."
The continuity in team selection that Mitchell has been able to maintain for the past two weeks has brought to life a belief and trust among the players that the former All Black coach is fostering in rebuilding the Bulls.
Mitchell has managed to keep the changes to his team to a minimum with Johnny Kotze making his first start on the wing ahead of Sibahle Manxwane while Ivan van Zyl will start at scrumhalf ahead of Andre Warner, who falls out of the match day 22.
Mitchell will be banking heavily on the consistency in team selection in bringing about enough cohesion to break the Sharks' eight-match winning run and haul themselves back into semi-final contention.
“Ultimately we must continue to focus on ourselves and make sure that we continue to bring the same attitude," Mitchell said.
"We obviously want to continue to bring the same sort of team work and always searching to become smarter in our game. It is not about focusing on the Sharks or the log, it’s actually just focusing on ourselves and that is what we are preoccupied with."