PRETORIA – The Bulls may have gained a major psychological and numerical edge in their aspirations for a Super Rugby playoff berth in their hard fought 39-33 win over the Sharks on Saturday.
But it could have come at a heavy cost to their playing stocks ahead of their trip to Buenos Aires to face the Jaguares.
In-form Springbok lock Lood de Jager hobbled off with a suspected pectoral muscle injury, while another in-form player, prop Lizo Gqoboka, also suffered what looks like a toe injury that could see the duo miss out on the next few games.
It may even endanger their chances of being fit in time for the Springbok Test series against England next month.
De Jager and Gqoboka are set to undergo MRI scans on Monday to determine the extent of the damage they suffered, but Bulls doctor Herman Rossouw doubts they will be leaving with the team for Argentina on Wednesday.
“Lizo has a tendon injury on his big toe and Lood has an injury with his pectoral muscle.
“I can’t say at this stage what exactly the extent of the damage is, and I will know once they have undergone an MRI scan tomorrow morning (Monday),” said Rossouw.
“I think it is highly unlikely that they will be available for selection and travel with the team this week.”
Bulls coach John Mitchell will be crossing his fingers that both players are fit at least for the remaining game before the June international break against the Brumbies.
However, the injuries to De Jager and Gqoboka could be detrimental to Bok coach Rassie Erasmus’ plans for the series against England.
De Jager is the most senior lock available after the injury to Eben Etzebeth, which has prevented the Stormers star from participating in Super Rugby this year.
“Yeah it will be a setback, but someone else will be ready. It will be a shame because he has been in outstanding form and showed that with the try he scored.
“He’s been in extremely good form and looking like a very consistent Test player week after week.
“But let’s wait and see for the X-ray and see what happens, but in my own view, I don’t think it is going to be that good,” said Mitchell.
With Pierre Schoeman still serving his six-week suspension and if Gqoboka is to be sidelined for longer than a week, the Bulls will be facing a crisis at prop, with Mitchell revealing that they could send out an SOS to the Cheetahs or Southern Kings.
While Mitchell did not divulge any names, Cheetahs prop Ox Nche could be the perfect stop-gap for the games against the Jaguares and Brumbies.
“We’ve got an issue, so we are currently looking at what we can loan for two weeks, with the northern hemisphere and South African teams finished in the PRO14,” Mitchell said.
“We are going to have to come up with a plan until Pierre comes back.”
The clash against the Jaguares will be as crucial for the men in blue as their win over the Sharks was, because victory or defeat will go a long way to determining the ultimate SA conference log standings.
Beating the Sharks in a pulsating affair at Loftus, where the men from the capital ran in an impressive five tries, not only moved the home team from the bottom of the conference to third place, but it has firmly placed their fate into their own hands.
“It’s in our hands – this conference is going to go down to the wire. We’ve got New Zealand teams smashing each other over the next month, and we have our conference smashing each other,” Mitchell said.
“So, there also is going to be a cost as well. I think we are going to see a lot of injuries in the competition, some of these derbies are tough.
“The Jaguares have done very well on tour, and they have been more consistent away than they have been at home.”