RUGBY NEWS - While being more than willing to take the blow of a relatively unexpected loss to the Lions on the chin, Bulls mentor Jake White also made the point that his charges’ destiny in the Rainbow Cup remain firmly in their own hands.
He’ll cite a log that shows them having a four-point cushion over the Stormers, but the prospect of several experienced and proven performers returning from injury is arguably a bigger contributor to his confidence.
Top of the list is Springbok flanker Marcell Coetzee, who’s been in Pretoria for close to two months since being granted an early release from Irish giants Ulster. The 30-year-old star has been recovering from a hamstring injury and contractually only starts his Bulls career on 1 July.
However, it’s understood Coetzee is keen to try and stake a claim for the Boks’ series against the British & Irish Lions, meaning he could still feature in the current campaign. His lack of match fitness and the fact that the franchise boasts enviable depth in the loose-trio might see White rather phase him in gradually.
Furthermore, influential scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl is back in contention to end his Loftus career on a high before departing for Saracens in July, while fellow internationals Travis Ismaiel and Gio Aplon have also recovered.
“The break is really going to help us,” said White.
“All these experienced Boks are coming back from next week onwards, so this bye week has worked out well for us. It helps us with depth.”
Lizo Gqoboka’s rolled ankle is also thought not to be too serious after he left the field as a precaution last weekend.
“I was going to change the props at half-time anyway, so as soon as he felt the problem – instead of keeping him on for the final seven minutes or so – we just took him off,” said White about last week’s outing against the Lions.
“He looks alright. I didn’t want his foot to be under undue pressure anyway.”
The sprightly loosehead has been one of the stars of the Bulls campaign to date. The Bulls next face the Stormers at home next Saturday.