PRETORIA – The Bulls have suffered a massive blow with Springbok lock Lood de Jager ruled out of Saturday’s Super Rugby derby against the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld.
De Jager sustained a grade one strain injury on his calf in the Bulls loss to the Crusaders in Christchurch last Friday and has been sidelined for a week.
“Lood started complaining about a stiff calf after the game and scans unfortunately revealed that he has a grade one strain injury so it is unlikely that he will be available for this weekend,” confirmed Bulls team doctor Herman Rossouw yesterday.
The absence of De Jager leaves a gaping void in the Bulls second row as the former Cheetahs hard man had returned to the form that had made him South Africa’s best rugby player three years ago and one of the stand out players at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Besides being a towering figure in the Bulls lineout and handy with his bulk in the pack, De Jager has been exceptional in lending a hand with his leadership qualities.
De Jager’s injury comes shortly after evergreen lock RG Snyman was also ruled out for at least a month after sustaining a facial fracture in the game against the Chiefs two weeks ago.
With the Bulls running thin of experienced locks, Bulls boss John Mitchell could be forced to play some musical chairs with his pack with loose forward Hanro Liebenberg likely to be moved to pack down in the second row alongside Jason Jenkins.
Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard also didn’t train with the team as he is suffering from flu but Rossouw confirmed that Pollard should be available to face the Stormers.
Another Springbok Trevor Nyakane sustained a concussion in the first half in the game against the Crusaders but looks to be making a steady recovery and could get the green light to play.
“Trevor came off with concussion in the first half and has recovered well. He started with his return to training protocol and seems to be progressing well and could be a viable option for coach Mitch this weekend,” Rossouw added.
While the injuries to key personnel will be a disruption to Mitchell, it is getting back to winning ways that will be utmost on the former All Blacks boss after his team’s frustrating tour Down Under where they lost all three of their games to add to the loss against the Lions prior to the tour.
Mitchell is very much cognisant of the position his team finds itself in at the moment but without losing much sleep over what might have been especially in the losses against the Reds and Chiefs, Mitchell wants his team to focus on building on the good things that they were able to achieve abroad.
“We were hoping to be in a better position but it is what it is. You tell me how many teams have won in New Zealand in recent years. We let two go and we were in the contest the other night (Crusaders) but we let that go before half-time in many ways in the rain. It is what it is and we got to keep working,” said Mitchell.
And the Bulls will go into Saturday’s derby with some confidence knowing that they will have home ground advantage against a side that doesn’t travel so well even within the borders of South Africa.
“This competition is home dominated, it’s not exactly an even competition because a majority of teams win at home. We are now at home for a long period of time and in our country so that’s good.”