JOHANNESBURG - Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard will lead the Bulls into battle against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires after regular captain Burger Odendaal joined the growing list of casualties at Loftus Versfeld.
Odendaal, who is suffering from a rib injury, is the third Bulls player to be crocked this week after the double blow of losing Springbok lock Lood de Jager and prop Lizo Gqoboka.
The absence of Odendaal, Gqoboka and De Jager has also forced Bulls coach John Mitchell into making some cosmetic changes to his team with Pollard likely to start at inside centre while Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane looks to move from tighthead to loosehead prop and Jason Jenkins likely to return to lock from flank.
Mitchell admitted that losing De Jager and Gqoboka particularly was a big blow to the team but believes that it is an opportunity to test the depth in the team, which is a prerequisite for any side that has ambitions of doing well in Super Rugby.
“You never want to see a teammate suffer but unfortunately it is part of the trade. At the end of the day you are tested in this competition by your depth so you can’t just rely on top players being available all the time," Mitchell said on Tuesday.
"While you feel for your teammate, you got to get on and now it is someone else’s chance to contribute to the team. It will come down to how everyone has contributed to the team and now there is new players to be given chances to contribute to the team.”
Furthermore, Mitchell confirmed that he would not be looking to bring in re-inforcements from outside to help alleviate their shortage of loosehead props with Gqoboka injured and Pierre Schoeman still on suspension and instead they will look to their younger props and giving them an opportunity to play Super Rugby.
While Nyakane’s temporary move back to his more favoured position of loosehead will be a strength for the Bulls as they face a strong scrummaging outfit in the Jaguares, the likes of Nqobisile Mxoli, Matthys Basson and Frans van Wyk will also get an opportunity to show their versatility as they have the ability to scrum down on either side of the set-piece.
Mitchell is also satisfied with the cover at lock with utility forward Hendre Stassen serving as backup in the second row and as an additional loose forward.
As disruptive as the injuries have been to the men in blue, they will leave for Buenos Aires on Wednesday with the added burden of knowing that they have never won a game there while the Jaguares are on a high after a hugely successful tour of Australia and New Zealand where they won all four of their matches.
Forwards: Thembelani Bholi, Nic de Jager, Roelof Smit, Marco van Staden, Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman, Handre Stassen, Trevor Nyakane, Conraad van Vuuren, Matthys Basson, Nqobi Mxoli, Frans van Wyk, Jaco Visagie, Edgar Marutlulle, Adriaan Strauss.
Backs: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Johnny Kotze, Divan Rossouw, Jesse Kriel, JT Jackson, Handre Pollard (captain), Manie Libbok, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Andre Warner.