A freak accident cost the Vodacom Bulls their utility back Francois Hougaard which could rule him out for up to six weeks.
Hougaard was training with his teammates and mis-stepped during a training move, twisting his knee and tearing his meniscus, the concave part of the cartilage of his knee.
The injury will mean he will be out of action for at least four weeks, but it will most likely be closer to six weeks when he gets onto the field again.
This will mean that Hougaard will miss the Vodacom Super 14 opening game against the Vodacom Cheetahs on February 11, deepening a crisis at the Bulls on the wing after the departure of Bryan Habana to the Vodacom Stormers.
Hougaard will undergo a scope to determine the extent of the damage this morning, but team doctor Org Strauss’s diagnosis is a six week layoff.
The Bulls players and management have for a while now spoken about their desire to build a dynasty, to start an era of dominance in the competition to rival that of the Crusaders.
At Loftus on Saturday, in front of a sell-out crowd awash in light blue, they added substance to their words with a performance that was emphatic as any seen in any final anywhere. It was their second title, and only two teams have won more Super 14 trophies now than they have – the Crusaders and the Blues.
The Bulls scored eight tries to two, they led 34-7 at half-time, the game was effectively over when they led 21-7 after just 15 minutes. The eight tries was a record for a Super 14 decider, so was the winning margin of 44 points, which eclipsed the 30 the Brumbies won by when they beat the Sharks 36-6 in Canberra in 2001.
Olivier ran with the team on Tuesday and Ludeke is optimistic about his recovery but a final call will only be made later this week.
The Bulls’ first option is to play Olivier and Jaco Pretorius in the midfield but if Olivier does not recover Pretorius will again partner Marius Delport with the promising Gerhard van den Heever on the bench.
Ludeke has otherwise left the team that ensured a home final unchanged and he said that the team is looking forward to the clash against the Chiefs.
“It is a great opportunity to play in a final at Loftus and we are excited about the challenge that awaits us,” he said.
“We have prepared well and the team is focused on the job at hand.”
Captain Victor Matfield stressed that you never know when the opportunity to play in a home final will emerge again and this is one of the reasons why the Bulls are going to put in a massive effort on Saturday.
Bulls and Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez will started running in training on Monday and will be given time to prove his fitness for the crucial Super 14 game against the Sharks.
Du Preez picked up a calf injury against the Force and did not play against the Cheetahs at Loftus on the weekend as a result.
Dr Org Strauss said on Monday morning that Du Preez will be closely monitored throughout the week and a final call as to whether he will be able to play against the Sharks will be made on Wednesday.
Strauss confirmed that apart from Du Preez there are no other serious injuries in the camp and everyone is eligible to play against the Sharks.
A bonus point in Durban will pave the way for a place in the semi-finals, but Frans Ludeke’s team knows that a win in the Shark tank will secure a play-off spot at fort Loftus.
Source + Pic: planetrugby.com
Botha was cited following his team’s 20-6 win over the Waratahs at the weekend, and was charged with having struck the Waratahs captain and flank Phil Waugh with his forearm.
The judicial officer categorised the offence as ‘reasonably serious’ and after taking into account all aggravating and mitigating factors Botha, was suspended for three weeks.
This precludes the player from participating in all forms of the game up to and including the May 2.
As a result Botha will miss the encounters with the Brumbies (in Canberra this coming Saturday), Chiefs (in Pretoria on April 25) and the Western Force (Pretoria, May 2).
He will be available against to play against the Cheetahs in Pretoria on May 9 and the Sharks in Durban a week later.
The North vs South derby happens this weekend between the Stormers and the Bulls, the biggest rivals in South Africa, but Bulls fullback Zane Kirchner says they have “no special plans” for the Stormers when they arrive at Loftus Versfeld for their Super 14 Round Four showdown on Saturday.
The unbeaten Bulls are top of the standings – along with the Waratahs, but ahead on points difference – after brushing aside the challenges of the Reds, Blues and Lions in the first three weeks.
The Stormers – desperate after losing two of their first three home matches, against the Sharks and Blues – will pose an altogether different threat to the Bulls this week.
However, Kirchner feels the Bulls will be best served by treating this like any other “important” game and not turning it into a big derby affair.
“The guys are always up for a game like this,” adding that it could be a mistake to lose sight of the bigger picture – their goal of winning a second Super 14 title.
“It doesn’t matter who we play, it is such an important competition [the Super 14].
An intercept try by replacement Bjorn Basson five minutes before the end of the pre-Super 14 season match handed the Cheetahs a 20 – 16 win over the Bulls in Polokwane on Saturday.
However, it was not just a warm-up. For that, the tackles were too fierce, and the rucks too hard. To a large extent, that made up for the many early season errors – on both sides and especially in the first half – in a match that came to light in the second half.
The Bulls had the better of the first half when they dominated up front and in this period showed good structure, while the Cheetahs came back after the break with some solid scrumming and some good interplay between forwards and backs.
The fact that Bulls fly-half Morne Steyn attempted a drop from far out, and then aimed a penalty for the posts to make it 16-13 with only five minutes remaining, tells the story of how seriously the two sides approached the game.
But that Steyn penalty was to no avail as Bulls centre Wynand Olivier flung out a long pass on attack for Bjorn Basson to intercept and run 60 metres for a try converted by Jacques-Louis Potgieter to put his team 20-16 ahead – a lead they held onto to the end.
A feature of the game was the good defence on both sides – and the Cheetahs in particular were under the cosh for 75 per cent of the match but still managed to keep the Bulls down to a single try.