THE Bulls will have to finish their Super Rugby season without scrumhalf Piet van Zyl.
It was confirmed on Monday that the 25-year-old Springbok halfback would be out of action for the remainder of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee on Saturday, during the Pretoria side’s 35-33 win over Gauteng rivals the Lions.
This is one of a number of injury concerns that have hit the Bulls prior to their leaving for Australasia next week.
Van Zyl launched the Bulls’ attack in their win at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend with two quick tries within 10 minutes after the first whistle, to lay the foundation for victory by Frans Ludeke’s side.
The diminutive No9 did not finish the first half of the match as a result of knee injury. The blow forced Springbok utility back Francois Hougaard, who has been playing on the wing for the Bulls the entire season, to switch to scrumhalf.
Van Zyl had replaced Rudy Paige in the starting XV after the latter also sustained a knock to the knee when the Bulls faced the Sharks in Durban a fortnight ago. While the injury blow to Van Zyl will be cause for concern for Ludeke, the coach will be pleased that Paige is now on the mend and will be ready for action by Monday, when the Bulls touch down in New Zealand.
The question now will be whether the coach will thrust Paige immediately back into the starting XV, or if Hougaard, who has been in sublime form on the wing, will make a return to scrumhalf when the Bulls face the Blues in their opening match of the tour.
To add to the injury woes, centre Burger Odendaal will not be part of any training this week after hurting his ankle against the Lions at the weekend. However, the inside centre is expected to be ready for action next week and is likely to be included in the Bulls’ touring party.
Ludeke will also have to think hard about including prop Dean Greyling in the touring squad.
The burly front-rower was involved in a car accident last Friday, in which he injured his leg. He is only expected to recover in the Bulls’ second week of the overseas tour.
Despite the injury crisis, there are a few things the Pretoria side can smile about, chief among them the new-found form of Pierre Spies. The Bulls captain, who has managed to remain injury-free for the first time in two seasons so far, has had a comeback season to be proud of.
The No 8 came on as a substitute with a near immediate try, to contribute to the win, and left Ludeke beaming. He will be instrumental in the Bulls’ crusade for a successful tour.