The Bulls on Monday jetted out of South Africa with the knowledge that their tour just got a bit tougher: captain Victor Matfield will be out of action for three weeks with a shoulder injury.
Vata Ngobeni, IOL.
Matfield became the latest Springbok from the Bulls on the injury list. He joins speedster Bryan Habana who also left with the team and will only play in the Bulls third or fourth match on tour.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke conceded that it was a major blow for his charges but that they had enough firepower to keep them going in the tour until Matfield and Habana’s return.
Matfield injured his right shoulder in the Bulls last match against the Stormers two weeks ago unfortunately the same shoulder that had kept Matfield out of action for two weeks prior to the Stormers match.
‘Losing Victor is a big thing for us’
Matfield is likely to return to lead the Bulls in their match against the Crusaders. Habana could return the week before in the encounter against the Highlanders.
“Losing Victor is a big thing for us and a huge loss. It is unfortunately the same shoulder and he will be out for three weeks,”said Ludeke on Monday.
“He is a major influence in the team as a leader and as a player but fortunately for us we have some good depth in the team and I am confident that Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha and Wilhelm Steenkamp will hold the fort well.
“The guys are upbeat regardless and we are leaving on the back of some good wins and momentum on our side,” said Ludeke on Monday.
However, the Bulls had played some of their best rugby without Matfield and they will be pinning their hopes on the same fortune and hard work which has seen them go four matches unbeaten when they face the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday.
‘We want to keep a balance in the team’
The Bulls will also go into Friday’s encounter well rested after having the week off last week with the past weekend having been their bye weekend.
And even going into a tour riddled with possible pitfalls that could easily break the spirits of the best rugby players around, the Bulls are buoyed by the fact that even after not playing they still remain on top of the log and will want to maintain and extend their eight match unbeaten run in super rugby taking into account the last four matches of last year’s competition.
“As I had said things are going well for us and the guys are really focussed on taking it game by game. We fully understand that it won’t be easy and we are playing against strong teams,” said Ludeke.
“But the spirit in the team is very good and the rest we had last week really did a world of good to the team.
“We want to keep a balance in the team and the rest could not have come at a better for the guys to get away from rugby and recharge their batteries for this tour.
“We know that this tour is going to be tough. We need to forget about all the things outside of the field like records and being on top of the log and focus on ourselves and what we need to do this coming Friday,” said Ludeke.
In the absence of Matfield, Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez will captain the team.Tweet