After starting each of the Bulls' six Vodacom Super Rugby matches to date, Handré Pollard will need to sit out soon. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
Pollard has played all but 11 minutes of the Bulls' season so far, producing a number of sparkling displays for the Pretoria-based side, including Saturday's Man of the Match performance in the victory over the Crusaders.
The Bulls' schedule has helped with continuity in selection, as their round-five bye triggered a restart of the count of consecutive weeks, according to Saru's guidelines in player management for the season, which request that Springboks do not play more than five consecutive Vodacom Super Rugby matches.
However, as a key Bok, Pollard may have to be rested for up to four weeks of the tournament. The Bulls will face the Lions at Ellis Park this weekend, before hosting the ramshackle Reds at Loftus the following weekend.
Bulls backline coach Pieter Rossouw says they are happy to adhere to Saru's regulations, and will be considering a rest for Pollard in the coming weeks.
'We'll assess this week about when we're going to rest him, but we've got some good players, so I don't see it being too much of a problem,' Rossouw told SARugbymag.co.za.
'Jacques-Louis Potgieter is a very experienced flyhalf and he played well for us during the Currie Cup and Super Rugby last year. We've got our system and we know how we want to play, and he is a good enough flyhalf to fit into that.'
Potgieter is currently recovering from a hamstring injury, and may not be ready to face the Lions this weekend, making the Reds' match the more likely candidate.
The Bulls victory over the Crusaders moved them to within a point of the Sharks at the top of the South African conference with a match in hand.
The result was made all the more impressive given the disruptions just prior to kick-off, as Jan Serfontein and Arno Botha were ruled out.
Burger Odendaal proved an inspired replacement in place of the stricken Serfontein, producing a strong display which was capped off with a well-taken try.
'We had a slight concern about his match fitness, because he hasn't played for a while, but he came through well,' said Rossouw.
'Super Rugby is a long competition so you need at least two players to cover for each position. Competition is a good thing, it brings the best out of the players. And obviously when you need to rotate, we can feel comfortable that we won't lose any continuity.'
Saturday's victory came on the back of a lacklustre showing against the Force the previous week. However, it was the South African side that managed to outscore their Australasian opponents three tries to one on this occasion.
'Everyone was disappointed after the Force game, so we wanted to make amends. We created some very good opportunities, and were very happy with the two tries we scored early in the game.
'I think Pine Pienaar perhaps doesn't get the credit he deserves for our defensive work. Our scramble defence showed the heart and the character of the players. To keep the Crusaders down to one try says something about the work we've been doing there.'
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images