Pivot Pollard pivotal as Bulls skipper in Chiefs warm-up battle
SPRINGBOK flyhalf Handré Pollard will lead the Bulls for the first time when they take on the Chiefs in their Super Rugby warm-up game in Brisbane next week.
Pollard was confirmed as the Bulls captain for the Super Rugby season until regular captain and former Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss returns from injury, which is likely to be in round four of the competition.
Next week’s game against the Chiefs will be the Bulls’ second pre-season friendly after they put to the sword an inexperienced Lions side in Harare last week.
It will also be the only time that Bulls coach Nollis Marais will use his starting side in the build-up to their Super Rugby campaign where they face stiff opposition against the New Zealand conference.
Last year, the Bulls failed to make the Super Rugby play-offs, understandably with a largely inexperienced side that had at least 12 Super Rugby debutants but this year they have lofty expectations by already proclaiming that nothing short of making the knockout stages of the competition will suffice.
While Pollard will be faced with the added responsibility of leading the side, his performance will also come under the microscope after missing the whole of last year due to shoulder and ankle injuries which required him to go under the doctor’s knife.
Much of how the Bulls want to play and perform will rest on the broad shoulders of Pollard whose absence not only hampered the Bulls but the Springboks as well.
Next week’s game will be another first for Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane who has made the switch to tighthead prop after having played most of his senior career at loosehead and the Limpopo-born front-ranker will have to quickly form a working relationship with hooker Jaco Visagie and Edgar Marutlulle along with loosehead props Lizo Gqoboka and Pierre Schoeman.
Another fight for places in the team will be in the second row where Springbok lock Lood de Jager will look to establish himself as a starter along with RG Snyman but the incumbent No 4, Jason Jenkins, will make a strong case to retain his place and continue his budding partnership with the versatile Snyman.
While the decision as to who the starting loose forwards will be, is far from being resolved, Marais will be eagerly anticipating to see how Namibian international Renaldo Bothma and former Springbok flank Jacques Potgieter perform along with Ruan Steenkamp, Shaun Addendorf, Nic de Jager and Hanro Liebenberg.
Marais is yet to settle on a midfield combination and, with an array of options at his disposal, there will be another battle for starting berths between Burger Odendaal, JT Jackson, Johnny Kotze and Dries Swanepoel while there will be consideration for the injured Springbok Jan Serfontein, who is on the mend, and should be fit to play in the first Super Rugby game against the Stormers.
After playing the Chiefs, the Bulls will also participate in the Brisbane Global Tens at the Suncorp Stadium where they have been pooled with other former Super Rugby champions in the Brumbies and Highlanders and could possibly face the Western Force, reigning Super Rugby champions, the Hurricanes, and former French and European champions Toulon.
“This will be an interesting trip, as we have not done this before,” said Marais yesterday.
“It does give us time together to work as a squad and that is very valuable, especially at this time of our pre-season. The guys are keen to give it a go and we have a clear understanding of what we want to achieve on this trip.”