Bulls to show their ‘true character’

Despite another injury setback and two defeats in their first three matches, Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer remained optimistic that his side will soon show their true colours and start producing the kind of rugby that saw them reach the Super 14 play-offs the last two years.

Meyer revealed on Monday that the elation over the return of Springbok lock Bakkies Botha has been tempered by the news that Bok midfielder Wynand Olivier has been ruled out of the Round Four encounter with the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday and the early stages of the team’s month-long, five-match trip to Australasia.

Olivier underwent an arthroscopy on his knee on Monday and will be out of action for between two and four weeks. The minor procedure was in order to “clean out” the knee and cartilage.

The Bok midfielder was doubtful for last Friday’s encounter with the Western Force (which the Bulls lost 30-27), after taking a knock to the knee against the Cheetahs the week before. Another knock against the Force required the surgical procedure to fix the damage.

He could join the team during the latter stages of their tour if he recovers in time.

Wayne Julies is likely to replace Olivier at inside centre for the encounter with the Chiefs.

However, the good news is that Botha, who has not played any rugby since the latter stages of last year’s Super 14 series – when he suffered calf and Achilles tendon damage and required surgery – will make his return top action against the Chiefs.

Botha won’t start, but will get 20 to 30 minutes from the bench in the second half as Meyer manages his return to full fitness.

The Bulls coach also revealed that team management will make a call later in the week on the availability of fly-half Derick Hougaard and wing Bryan Habana, who missed last week’s loss to the Force through injury.

Hougaard (who was out with a groin injury) trained on Monday, but Habana still experienced some discomfort from a hip injury.

Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle has recovered and could also be considered for a place on the bench.

Other injured stars still on the sideline include Pierre Spies (at least another four weeks away from returning), Richard Bands (five weeks) and Rayno Gerber (two weeks).

Despite all the injury concerns and two early defeats Meyer remained upbeat.

It is still a long way to go in the tournament,” Meyer told this website on Monday.

“Two years ago we won just one of our first five games and we still finished third in the [then Super 12] competition. Last year we lost two of our home games and still made the play-offs.

“Obviously it won’t be easy [to come back into the play-off race], but this has character and the ability to recover.

“Now is the time for the team to show its true character,” he added.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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