Bulls have con­cerns as week from hell be­gins

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

THE WEEK’S rest that the Blue Bulls en­joyed so early in their Cur­rie Cup cam­paign could prove to be what they needed ahead of three tough fix­tures against the Golden Lions, Sharks and the WP – all of th­ese in a mat­ter of seven days.

While the Lions (who the Bulls play this week­end) are just two points ahead of them, the Sharks (the Bulls face then next week Wed­nes­day) on the same num­ber of points and WP (sched­uled for next week Satur­day) lan­guish­ing at the bot­tom of the log, the men in blue will need to put their best foot for­ward to over­come their threats.

The Lions and Sharks have al­ready played two games and suf­fered what seemed to be a mi­nor set­back in their start to their cam­paigns, with them los­ing to the Pu­mas and Free State Chee­tahs, re­spec­tively, be­fore com­ing back with em­phatic wins in the sec­ond round.

WP have only played one game and that was a loss on Sun­day to the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons the Chee­tahs in Bloem­fontein.

The Bulls were dealt a heavy blow when cap­tain Ruan Steenkamp was ruled out for the re­main­der of the sea­son af­ter suf­fer­ing a torn pec­toral mus­cle in train­ing at Lof­tus Vers­feld yes­ter­day.

Steenkamp missed the Bulls open­ing game of the sea­son against the Gri­quas in Kim­ber­ley as he was still re­cov­er­ing from a nig­gling in­jury sus­tained dur­ing the Su­per Rugby sea­son and his ab­sence will hit the Bulls par­tic­u­larly hard be­cause of their thin stocks at open­side flank.

Roelof Smit is still a month away from re­turn­ing af­ter suf­fer­ing a knee in­jury in the Su­perS­port Rugby Chal­lenge.

The un­avail­abil­ity of Steenkamp and Smit will mean that the Bulls will face the Lions and Sharks with only two recog­nised flanks in Shaun Aden­dorff and Nic de Jager, with for­mer Sevens star Boom Prinsloo also in the mix to weat the No 6 jer­sey.

Nol­lis Marais will also have to deal with another mini-cri­sis at hooker. First choice Jaco Vis­agie is suf­fer­ing from a shoul­der in­jury, while Edgar Marut­lulle still has another week of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion left, with Cor­nel Els also on the ca­su­alty list. Jan-Hen­ning Cam­pher will in all like­li­hood get the nod to start at No 2, with Ju­nior Spring­bok hooker Jo­han Grobbe­laar in the run­ning to get his Cur­rie Cup de­but.

But the Bulls would have taken a lot of con­fi­dence from their 51-45 win over Gri­quas and they will fancy their chances of tak­ing some points off the Lions, whose se­nior team is still in­volved with Su­per Rugby as they pre­pare to host Satur­day’s fi­nal against the Cru­saders from New Zealand.

Another big boost to the team’s con­fi­dence is the re­turn to train­ing of Spring­bok wing Jamba Ulengo, cen­tre Dries Swanepoel and util­ity back Johnny Kotze. The Bulls will also have Spring­bok tourist Lizo Gqoboka, now re­cov­ered from post-con­cus­sion symp­toms sus­tained in the clos­ing weeks of Su­per Rugby.

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