PRETORIA - Not even a weekend without rugby could save the Blue Bulls from the persistent injury woes that have dogged them all year round.
On Monday, it was confirmed by team doctor Herman Rossouw that Springbok wing Jamba Ulengo will miss the remainder of the Currie Cup season due to a knee injury initially sustained during Super Rugby, while centre Dries Swanepoel and hooker Jaco Visagie are also likely not to be available for the rest of the domestic season.
Swanepoel underwent an operation on Monday to rectify an Achilles tendon, while Visagie will also go under the surgeon’s scalpel on Thursday for a shoulder cartilage injury. The trio join long term injuries Hanro Liebenberg and Ruan Steenkamp.
However, Rossouw confirmed the return from injury of centres Burger Odendaal and Johnny Kotze, who should be fit for selection for Saturday’s Currie Cup encounter against the Lions at Ellis Park.
At the same time, the Bulls could be bolstered by the return from injury of wing Travis Ismaiel, Springbok tourist flank Roelof Smit and Springbok scrumhalf Piet van Zyl next week.
Meanwhile, Bulls defence coach Pine Pienaar has called for a bit of patience as the team gets to grips with a new defensive system that is still in a trial and error phase and has led to a lot more tries being conceded than they have scored.
“Obviously, (John Mitchell) came in and said what he wants and it excites me and the players. It was always going to be a challenge putting in a new system, change old habits and fix that," Pienaar said.
"But game for game there were definitely areas that we improved on and I think the more the players get used to the system, the more they understand the system and get clarity in what we want then they are going to grow into that. It was always going to be a challenge in the Currie Cup, changing and adapting to a new system but I think what we want is the way forward and definitely a process of breaking old habits and getting into new ones."
“In the past we did well but I think in the last two to three seasons from a defensive point of view it went into a different direction. To get to that new system in place, you have to fix a few old habits. There is a lot of stuff that has to be done different than in the past. I believe that currently that is the only way to go and puts good sides with a good skills under pressure.
"Obviously we are still learning and maybe this weekend there can be a different area which sides will punish you on. The players are in and I know it is going to take time but we are definitely progressing into a new direction which the players like.”
Pienaar acknowledges that a lot of their defensive frailties stem from turnover ball.
“I think a lot of tries are being scored off turnover ball and counter attack so the more you attack, the better the chances are going to be that you stand the opportunity to lose the ball. There are a lot of tries that have been leaked by sides, us included, but the biggest thing is if you can force turnovers from your defence and put sides under pressure.”
“It is sometimes frustrating not seeing results immediately but it is about getting everybody on the same page, getting into new habits and making sure that everybody in the system understands where we are going to. It is going to take time,” Pienaar said.