Johannesburg - While talk continues to swirl about the off-field acquisitions they have made and the Bulls’ chances in this year’s competition, a string of injuries has already hampered their cause before the pre-season matches has even begun.
The Bulls will start their pre-season preparations with a game against the Emirates Lions on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld, but coach Pote Human will be hoping that he doesn’t pick up any more injuries ahead of a long season that will test the new-found depth at the franchise, according to the supersport.com website.
Not only does Human have a late tour in the competition, but his two byes come early on, giving his team an eight-match straight run into the playoffs where depth will be critical for the side.
And while all the focus on the Bulls has been on the arrival of Springboks Schalk Brits and Duanne Vermeulen, the comeback of Cornal Hendricks and the promise of Sevens Bok Rosko Specman, there is a minor injury crisis brewing at the start of the season that will have any decent coach worried.
The Bulls decision to offer a contract to Garth April is testament to this, especially with Marnitz Boshoff out for another three months, an injury to either Manie Libbok or Handre Pollard would leave them with a massive hole at 10 which they aren’t prepared for.
And with uncertainty over April’s medical condition - he apparently has a shoulder injury that needs four weeks rehab and will need to pass a medical - these things will be keeping coach Pote Human up at night.
Then there is the issue at hooker - where Jaco Visagie’s off-season jaunt to Gloucester has cost them dearly, especially with an injury to his ankle that will keep him on the sidelines for a few months as well.
This, coupled with Edgar Marutlulle’s Achilles tendon injury that will keep him out until March leaves the Bulls with only two fit hookers - the 37-year old Brits and SA under-20 prodigy Johan Grobbelaar, and another injury in this department would see them desperately looking for a replacement.
The added depth of the off-season acquisitions, however, has offset some of the injury problems thus far, but given that the team has not kicked a ball in anger yet, nor gone off the training field, Human will be nervous about the team’s three warm-up games before their opening game against the Stormers on February 16, not to lose any more players.
Springbok Travis Ismaiel’s shoulder injury, which didn’t recover from the surgery as intended and forced him into a revision of the surgery, means he will also be out for three months, but with the off-season acquisitions of Speckman and Hendricks, the Bulls have some cover there.
And then Springbok Marco van Staden is also on the sidelines for three months, but the injury blow has been softened by the return of Roelof Smit, who is hungry to get his Bok colours this season.
Van Staden’s injury also has greater impact with the news that Jano Venter will be out for another two months, and the Bulls will be hoping for no further injuries in the loose trio.
All of the above could be compounded when the rest of the overseas contingent return this week - Jannes Kirsten, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins and Johnny Kotze all return from Japan while Andre Warner, Hanro Liebenberg and Hendre Stassen all are also set to return and Human will be hoping for no new injury news on that front.