They say that it never rains, but it pours. Bulls coach Frans Ludeke must be starting to wish he had a boat.
Not only were the defending champs (or should that be “pretending champs”) soundly stuffed by a team that, at times, just seemed to be playing a completely different game, at about 3 times the speed, but they face an uncertain week in terms of player availability for the crunch games ahead.
Bulls tighthead cente JP Nel has, for the umpteenth time, been cited for a dangerous swinging-arm tackle and, if found guilty (let’s be honest, his reputation has him damned) should expect a lengthly spell on the sidelines. Promsing young eighthman Dewald Potgieter is also in the diciplinary firing line, having committed a blatant spear tackle on ‘Saders cente Casey Laulala on Friday night. The smart money would seem to be on a ban for him as well.
Now, given the turnstiles performance put in by the Bulls midfielders last time out, the loss of Nel might seem like a blessing in disguise. One only wishes he would take his partner in crime, Wynand Olivier, with him. Problem is, though, the Bulls, not blessed with abundant depth at centre as it is, will also need to do without Marius Delport this week, possibly the natural choice to take over the number 13 jersey. Delport seems to have torn a groin muscle in his teams 54-19 defeat. There is no truth to the rumour that he injured himself in a scuffle with Bulls fans as he tried to prevent them leaving the stadium with 20 minutes left on the clock!
So, taking stock, we have the Bulls without key forwards Chilliboy Ralepelle (who re-injured his knee at practice and will be out for a few weeks more), Pierre Spies (no definite return date set), Bakkies Botha (determined to move to France, by means fair or foul) and now Potgieter. Botha may well be available for selection this weekend, but it’s anyone’s guess where his mind will be. Expect the Bulls to move Danie Rossouw to number 8 to cover for Potgieter, a move which may not prove incredibly effective under the new laws, which emphasise speed over bulk.
In the backs, the Bulls quite literally have no options left, should Nel and Delport indeed be ruled out. As is, they are faced with a 10-12 axis that is not firing correctly. Add to that the prospect of brining in one of the untried pair of Watermeyer and Dippenaar. At wing, they have Mametsa who is still finding his way at this level, but with Habana and Akona Ndungane still unavailable, they may well have to allow the frankly inept Danwel Demas to start on the wing.
About the only positive to take is that knocking the equally woeful Sharks over is not looking like a huge ask at the moment. That said, the men from Durbs appear, at least on paper, to have the Bulls bested in at least 12 of the 15 positions on offer, with a far stronger bench to boot. Ludeke better hope that someone brings him a really big umbrella, pronto, because a second home loss will see the Blue Fortress deserted by its core of “faithful” before the competition has even entered it’s fourth week.Tweet