Pretoria - The Bulls are placing their diminishing playoff hopes on Handre Pollard’s shoulders, with the flyhalf heading back to New Zealand this week for their final game against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
Kick-off is at 09:35 SA time.
According to the supersport.com website, Pollard returned home just more than a week ago with a calf injury, with the Bulls opting to let him return to rest as they were planning to rest him for the two matches in New Zealand anyway.
While their agreement with the national team means he only needs to rest for one game, the calf injury gave him the opportunity to sit out two games for the team as he underwent further assessment back in South Africa.
Now after their draw against the Blues and the tightening race for the playoffs, coach Pote Human is set to gamble on his return as Pollard has shaken off the calf injury and will be fit to play this weekend.
The injury to Paul Schoeman has opened this window of opportunity and with Schoeman returning home, Pollard will take his place and join up with the team on Tuesday.
Taking jetlag and other factors into account, it seems he will be with the side for one practice session before taking the captain’s armband from Burger Odendaal for the final fixture.
The Bulls were originally hoping to have him back for their final fixture against the Lions next week when they return home but the congested conference log and the fact the Jaguares have sprinted away at the top means that the Bulls could easily miss out if they don’t pick up points in their last two games.
More than that, the confidence booster of following up the Blues performance with a good performance against the Highlanders will set them up for the last game against a Lions side that is finding form at the right time of the season.
But it does raise the question of what message it sends to Manie Libbok, who was probably looking forward to another 80 minutes in the 10 jersey, with the lack of game time given to the youngster still a concern in the overall picture this season. The Bulls haven’t rotated their players as much as they could have and this could easily come back to bite them later on.
For now though, Pollard’s return to the team will be seen as a blessing and the Bulls will be hoping he can prove to be a thorn in the Highlanders’ side - enough to get them a vital win on the road before they return home.