It may not be the determining factor in deciding this year’s Super Rugby title, but for many of the teams the disruption in their team selection through the resting periods requested by their national coaches because of the Rugby World Cup will have repercussions.
This time the Bulls will probably feel the loss of captain and flyhalf Handré Pollard more keenly than any other team. Pollard has been the man who held the Bulls together in probably his best season in this competition.
Pollard isn’t in The Bulls match-23 to face the Brumbies on Friday (11:45) and flies back to South Africa on Thursday with a calf strain. He will miss the matches against the Blues and the Highlanders the following two weekends.
This creates a bit of a quandary for Bulls coach Pote Human, who planned to let Duane Vermeulen sit out the last two tour matches for his obligatory rest period.
Surely the Bulls cannot go into the New Zealand leg of two matches without their two leaders and most influential players?
♦ With the exception of Pollard, who is replaced by Manie Libbok, and TJ Jackson who comes onto the bench in Libbok’s place, the Bulls have retained the match-23 that beat the Melbourne Rebels last week.
Human said Libbok, who started for the Bulls against the Jaguares earlier in the season, has big shoes to fill, but certainly has the ability and skills to help the team achieve a second win on tour.
“He would not be around if he was not good enough, that is for sure. Handré is probably the leading 10 in the world at the moment, so to take over from him is not easy, but Manie has done well for us when he took to the field this year and I have the utmost confidence in him this weekend. He is an exciting young talent and we are looking forward to watching him grow.”
Vermeulen says that the defensive effort that the squad showed last week, must be repeated.
“We defended very well when under severe pressure and the Brumbies are going to test us the same way. They are so skilled and determined, we cannot let our guard down or we will pay the price,” he said.
Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks, Johnny Kotze, Burger Odendaal, Rosko Specman, Manie Libbok, André Warner, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Hanro Liebenberg, Paul Schoeman, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Simphiwe Matanzima, Wiehahn Herbst, Jannes Kirsten, Marco van Staden, Embrose Papier, JT Jackson, Divan Rossouw.