Former Vodacom Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter, who left Loftus Versfeld under a cloud after the Bulls defeat to the Brumbies in last year’s Vodacom Super Rugby semifinal, is set to make a welcome return to the team ahead of this weekend’s match against the Sharks.
And while it may be ironic that Potgieter (who was widely criticised for his call not to take a kickable penalty in the final minutes of the game only to watch the Brumbies bust out of their half and score a match-winning try) will return to face another team coached by Jake White, his presence will bolster the Bulls at just the right time.
The massive clash this weekend is sure to be the highlight of the round and will be vitally important for both teams to pick up points and maintain momentum. It will also go a long way to settling the South African conference, even though we are only a third of the way into the competition.
Potgieter’s contract with his Japanese club – and the insurance that needs to be covered when he plays for the Bulls – was the prime reason why he wasn’t included in the team against the Blues a fortnight ago.
While his return is strange in itself – the Bulls almost forced his hand by offering him a low contract last year when he wanted to renew – it will be welcomed by fans in Pretoria as his experience and leadership will be a massive boost to the side.
The team will return to Loftus on Monday morning following their week off, hoping to continue the momentum they built up with victories over the Lions and Blues.
Coach Frans Ludeke blamed the rain and a lack of execution for their losses in their opening two fixtures and there is a belief among the players they need to prove to themselves they can beat a team like the Sharks if they are to do well in this year’s competition.
There is also good news on the injury front, with midfielder Jan Serfontein (hamstring), loose forward Jono Ross (chest) and fullback Jurgen Visser (ankle) all being declared fit for the coming weekend.
Lock Grant Hattingh, who played at No 8 against the Lions, but was given the past two weeks off after tweaking his ankle, will also be available for selection.
The Bulls are currently third in the South African conference, with two victories out of four, while the Sharks are unbeaten this season.
Tickets are set to sell fast this week and it won’t be a surprise if the game is a sell-out come Saturday.