Rugby might be a team sport, but embattled Super 14 champions the Bulls will be looking to one person to turn their season around.
Their explosive former Springbok loose forward Pierre Spies returns to rugby this weekend after being out of the game for eight months after suffering a career threatening pulmonary embolism in August 2007.
Vata Ngobeni writes in the Pretoria News that Spies rejoined his Bulls teammates on Monday and will be thrown in at the deep end when the Bulls take on the Auckland Blues on Saturday.
The Bulls had initially hoped that Spies would be available from the start of the season but on the advice of their medical staff kept Spies out for six rounds of the competition.
Forget Spies’ elation on Friday evening on hearing the news that he had been cleared to start playing, it was Bulls coach Frans Ludeke who seemed to the most relieved person at receiving the good news.
In fact, Ludeke is pinning his team’s hopes of making a dramatic comeback in the competition on Spies’ athletic abilities and the fact that the experimental law variations are more suited to players like Spies.
“He is extremely valuable to us. With the new laws in the modern game I’m sure that they will suit him perfectly.
“He will be crucial in getting us vital line breaks to put opposition defenses under pressure. We will make a decision about him in the course of the week but he will definitely be playing whether he starts or comes off the bench,” said Ludeke.
Spies was instrumental in the Bulls winning the Super 14 title last year as he entered the fray in the second round of the competition after injury, again, had prevented him from being part of the Bulls campaign from the start.
Even more good news for the Bulls is that Springbok speedster Bryan Habana will also be available after missing Saturday’s 43-27 defeat to the Chiefs because of a shoulder injury.
Zane Kirchner has also finished his two-week suspension and should be handed his No 15 jersey as the Bulls have no other recognised fullback on tour.
Ludeke is likely to reshuffle his backline with Kirchner and Habana back and Morne Steyn moving to inside centre, Wynand Olivier to outside centre and JP Nel likely to be demoted to the bench.
Spies could start alongside Pedrie Wannenburg and Wikus van Heerden in the loose trio, while Bok duo Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha should continue in the second row.
Springbok prop Gurthro Steenkamp has also been cleared after limping off against the Chiefs with a cut on his leg. Spies replaces Dean Greyling who has failed to recover sufficiently from injury and is on his way back to South Africa.Tweet