Bulls’ depth put to the test

The continued erosion of his team’s depth through injuries and the serious threat posed by an ever-improving Western Force outfit are among Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer’s biggest headaches.


Meyer confirmed on Monday that injuries are beginning to threaten his team’s progress in the Super 14, despite their improved form.


Apart from a host of frontline players who remain sidelined through injury, several more stars will be out injured when the Bulls tackle the high-flying Force outfit in Pretoria on Friday.


“We sat down today and worked out that we now have virtually an entire team on the sidelines,” Meyer told this website.


“Your depth can only co so far, no further,” he added.


Springbok centre Wynand Olivier is the latest casualty, following a knock to his knee in the 24-20 win over the Cheetahs at the weekend. Meyer said he may have to undergo minor knee surgery and could be sidelined for up to a month.


This follows earlier news that burly prop forward Richard Bands (torn calf muscle), Bok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle (head injury) and Bok flyer Bryan Habana (hip pointer) have all been ruled out for this week.


Bands is likely to be sidelined for five to six weeks, Ralepelle just one week and Habana also this week.


Add to this fly-half Derick Hougaard, who remains sidelined with a leg injury that will keep him sidelined for at least another week, along with a host of other long term injury concerns and the Bulls’ resources are indeed being stretched.


Players who have not been in action in this tournament and will remain sidelined for the foreseeable future include Bok lock Bakkies Botha, Bok prop Gurthro Steenkamp, Bok loose forward Pierre Spies, Bok flank Tim Dlulane and prop Rayno Gerber.


It is clear Meyer was not trying to pull a quick one when he said he has almost an entire team on the sidelines.


Nine of his injured players are Springboks, who would be frontline selections if they were fit.


“Any team that loses players like Pierre [Spies], Bakkies [Botha], Bryan [Habana] and Wynand [Olivier] are going to struggle. We have lost a lot more,” the coach added.


Now his team face probably one of the most underrate sides in the competition, the Force – who last Friday smashed the Stormers 22-3 in Cape Town.


“People are underestimating the Western Force. They [the Force] beat the Stormers more convincing than the Cheetahs did. They are a much better outfit than last year when they played in the Super 14 for the first time.


“They have several Wallabies in their team – players like Brendan Cannon, Nathan Sharpe, Matt Giteau, Matt Henjak and Scott Staniforth. Those are world class players,” Meyer added.


But Meyer, the eternal optimist, said he feels there are plenty of positives to take from the Bulls’ win over the Cheetahs.


“Our scrums and line-outs were very good, but we can still improve on our driving technique and get some continuity into our game,” he said.


By Jan de Koning of 365 Digital

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