PRETORIA – The Bulls’ draw with the Blues came at a considerable cost after suffering three significant injury losses ahead of their final match on tour in New Zealand.
Electrifying wing Rosko Specman has returned to South Africa with loose forward Paul Schoeman, while it is touch and go whether Warrick Gelant will be fit to play against the Highlanders on Friday. Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard, who has recovered from a calf strain, and Eli Snyman have been called in as reinforcements.
Bulls team doctor Herman Rossouw revealed Specman suffered a grade-two hamstring injury, while Schoeman will undergo a scan for a knee injury.
“Warrick Gelant picked up a hamstring strain, and we will make a decision about his availability later in the week, but he will remain with the squad,” Rossouw said.
Pollard is expected to slot back into the flyhalf position and take over as captain from Burger Odendaal. His return to the team will give the Bulls the boost they need to finish their tour on a high as they look to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Manie Libbok, who filled in for Pollard while he was away, blew hot and cold, particularly in their defeat to the Brumbies.
But Bulls coach Pote Human said they continued to back Libbok with the youngster demonstrating what he was capable of in the second half against the Blues.
“In the first half Manie put too much pressure on himself and in the second he relaxed a bit and played to his ability and as the game progressed he just got better and better,” Human said. “We all know he has unbelievable talent and I am just happy for him that the second half went better.”
The Bulls earned two log points from their 22-all draw with the Blues, keeping their chances of reaching the playoffs alive.
They need to win their remaining two games against the Highlanders in Dunedin and the Lions at Loftus next week to reach the quarter-finals.
The Highlanders still have a slight chance at reaching the playoffs, which would give them an added incentive to beat the Bulls.
The home side will be looking to run the South Africans off their feet while the Bulls will be doing the opposite by slowing the game down and keeping the ball among the forwards.
Human said they are feeling bullish about their chances against the Highlanders who will be rested following a bye weekend.
“We are very positive at the moment, but they have an excellent pack of forwards where they are outstanding with their rolling mauls while they also scrum well,” Human said.@ockertde