PRETORIA – Two home losses do not only put pressure on the Bulls in their pursuit of a Super Rugby play-off berth but also in terms of their agreement with SA Rugby to rest certain Springbok players.
It is easier to sacrifice key players to the national cause when you are on the front foot, but it becomes a hassle when you have your back against the wall.
The issue came to the fore for the first time last week when Bulls coach Pote Human rested both Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel ahead of the Jaguares clash.
Both players have been instrumental to the Bulls’ campaign this season and losing both for the home game was less than ideal.
The wisdom of resting both in the same game raised eyebrows, but Human still has some tough decisions to make as the competition heads towards its business end.
Human welcomed back six Springboks including Kriel and Pollard for this weekend’s clash against the Reds but had to forego the services of Duane Vermeulen.
The Bulls mentor said Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus requested that certain players be rested for four matches during the competition.
“There are some Boks that Rassie asked us to rest for four games, and that means two weeks where they will train with us but not play on Saturday and two weeks where they are given totally off,” Human said on Wednesday.
“So I have to try and manage that and see what the best for the team and the player is.”
The four-match rest does not include the two bye weekends which means Kriel, Pollard and Vermeulen could miss three more games for the Bulls.
It is uncertain which other Springbok players are set for a rest, but it could include prop Trevor Nyakane, who has featured in every single match this season.
After this weekend’s bye, the Bulls have three more matches on home soil before their four-game tour of Australasia. The Bulls are infamously bad on tour and will rely heavily on their Springbok players to reverse their losing trend abroad.
Injuries and disciplinary problems have made it easier on Human to make the call on when to rest his Boks. It is still not an ideal for a team to be losing any of their star players during a campaign.
Schalk Brits is serving a four-week ban for striking Akker van der Merwe in the match against the Sharks a fortnight ago.
Springbok lock RG Snyman will feature in his first match of the season after recovering from injury and can expect an uninterrupted stint.
Scrumhalves Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl have been managed well through the regular rotation, and it isn’t clear whether they would need to take the four-week break.
The break as per the agreement does not include the playoffs while Erasmus has also given Super Rugby coaches some leeway when injuries restrict them.@ockertde