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Bulls

BullsVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 2 changes to his starting pack for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg and also had to replace pivot Handré Pollard, who did not recover in time from a knee contusion.

Jacques-Louis Potgieter will start at No 10 and is the only change to the backline that ran on against the Crusaders last week. Potgieter is returning to action following a hamstring strain that kept him out for 3 weeks.

Grant Hattingh (for Victor Matfield) and Dean Greyling (for Morné Mellett) will start in the pack.

Both played off the bench last weekend.

Hattingh’s spot on the bench will be taken by Roelof Smit and Greyling swops places with Mellett, who will play of the bench. Matfield is rested (as is Jan Serfontein).

Callie Visagie makes his return to the squad following a back injury.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his 23-man side to face the Vodacom Bulls in Saturday’s local Vodacom Super Rugby derby match.

In the forwards, Ackermann has made just 2 changes with Jacques van Rooyen starting at loosehead prop and Andries Ferreira earning a starting berth at lock.

Ackermann has also opted for consistency in the Emirates Lions backline, making just 1 change to his starting outfit. Anthony Volmink will earns his 1st Vodacom Super Rugby start of the year having fully recovered from his long-term injury.

Kick-Off is at 17:05 SA Time at Emirates Airline Park.

Tickets are still available via Lionsrugby.computicket.com from as little as R 40.00.

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Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein

Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Vodacom Bulls Springboks Victor Matfield and Jan Serfontein will both be rested against the Emirates Lions this week, in accordance with the franchises’ agreement with SARU.

Matfield has started every match for the Bulls this season, bar 1 game where he came off the bench against the Western Force a fortnight ago. Matfield is however nursing a knee injury and might be out for longer than 1 week, maybe even up to a month. Team doctor, Org Strauss confirmed that Victor Matfield is stuggling with the knee, but also said no decision has been made about Matfield’s fitness.

“He has a stiff knee, nothing too serious but we will make a decision later on in the week,” Dr Strauss replied to queries about Matfield’s fitness.

Meanwhile, Serfontein, who was named to play against the Crusaders last week even though he did not train due to a stiff hip flexor, will also earn a ‘rest’.

The Springbok centre failed to pass a late fitness test before the match and was replaced by Burger Odendaal at the 11th hour.

Odendaal was initially set to start his 1st game only for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup after a lengthy injury lay-off for a knee ligament injury, but was thrust straight into Super Rugby in stead.

Odendaal had an impressive return to competitive rugby and it should be expected that he will again take up the No 12 spot, with Serfontein rested.

Meanwhile, another 11th-hour replacement that stepped up to make an indelible impression, Hanro Liebenberg, could again find himself in the starting 15.

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Burger Odendaal

Burger Odendaal

Hanro Liebenberg

Hanro Liebenberg

Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has some uncomfortable decisions to make as his team head into the next phase of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The use of the squad system has done them well so far with the injuries they have had, but there are still some pressing concerns about the form of certain players, which need to be addressed with a number of young upstarts knocking hard on the door.

At both loose forward and in the midfield, Ludeke will have to make decisions going forward as to who will be the better combination and what will serve his team’s interests better as they edge towards the top of the South African conference.

Saturday’s 31 / 19 win over the Crusaders was a remarkable one not only for the commitment of the players on the field, but for the injuries they suffered before kickoff – losing Lappies Labuschagne and Arno Botha before the game started and Jan Serfontein in the midfield as well.

With a long tour still ahead of them later in the season, the next few weeks will be crucial to secure as many points as possible on South African soil, starting with Saturday’s Jukskei derby against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

While the normal Monday assessment still needs to happen, it seems Labuschagne could be back in contention for his starting spot this weekend, and on the form of Saturday, it would be hard to deny Hanro Liebenberg another go at the opposition given the big performance he gave coming into the side at such late notice.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has noted that Crusaders flank Richie McCaw is getting caught out more by referees.

McCaw was penalised a few times in his side’s 31 / 19 Super Rugby defeat to the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday night.

Mallett analysed the game in the SuperSport studio afterwards.

He said: “Richie McCaw was penalised 3 or 4 times. He’s just getting caught by referees now for doing the things that he’s been doing so effectively over the last 5 to 10 years.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls delivered their top performance of the season as the Emirates Lions recorded their best Vodacom Super Rugby tour yet during an exciting weekend of Southern Hemisphere rugby.

The match in Pretoria was the undoubted highlight of the weekend from a quality point of view, with the Vodacom Bulls extending their winning run at home over the Crusaders after winning 31 / 19.

For sheer audacity, the Emirates Lions deserve a lot of plaudits for beating the Reds by 18 / 17 in Brisbane on Friday morning and thus ending their tour on 3 wins from 4 – their best Australasian return yet.

The Cell C Sharks meanwhile moved to the Top of the South African Conference and into the Top 3 on the log with a hard-fought 15 / 9 win over the Force in Durban on Saturday afternoon, scoring all their points in the 2nd half.

The Toyota Cheetahs and DHL Stormers found the going tough in New Zealand though as both went down – the side from Central South Africa by 37 / 27 to the Chiefs in Hamilton and the Capetonians by 39 / 21 to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls picked up their 4th victory of the Super Rugby season as they beat the Crusaders 31 / 19 in an entertaining game at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Fans and viewers were treated to a wonderful game to round off the weekend as the Bulls got the better of their Kiwi opponents, thus moving above them up to 7th in the overall standings and 2nd in the South African Conference, only 1 point behind the Cell C Sharks but with a game in hand compared to them.

In a week where the Bulls lost their best workhorse in Lappies Labuschagne, and lost 2 Springboks in Jan Serfontein (hip) and Arno Botha (hamstring) before kick-off, it wouldn’t be untoward to expect them to be under an immense amount of pressure.

But the 2 players who came in at the 11th hour – midfielder Burger Odendaal and flank Hanro Liebenberg – stepped up to make an indelible impression that they not only belong at this level, but have a number of big games in their future with the way they played.

It was a thrilling 1st half in Pretoria as the Bulls showed their intent to keep the ball in hand, which paid off after 3 minutes when wing Francois Hougaard finished off in the corner. Handré Pollard could not add the extras but it was a hugely positive, fast-paced opening.

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Arno Botha

Arno Botha

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke restored props Morné Mellett and Trevor Nyakane to the starting line-up for their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Both props played off the bench in last weekend’s win against the Force and swop places with Dean Greyling and Marcel van der Merwe in 2 of the 4 changes to the pack. In the other changes to the pack and team, Victor Matfield returns to the No 5 lock position, swopping places with Grant Hattingh, who returns to his regular role as impact player.

Lappies Labuschagne also did not recover from a chest injury sustained against the Force and will sit out. He will be replaced by Arno Botha, who moves up from the bench. Hanro Liebenberg takes over from Botha on the bench.

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Burger Odendaal

Burger Odendaal

Vodacom Bulls midfielder Burger Odendaal will return to training today after a successful rehabilitation phase on a meniscal knee injury which saw him miss the opening part of the Vodacom Super Rugby season.

Odendaal will find a number of team mates missing on Monday though, as Jan Serfontein (stiff hip flexor), Marcel van der Merwe (contusion)and Dean Greyling (neck) will only return to the training field on Tuesday and Roelof Smit (ankle) and Lappies Labuschagne (nasal fracture) only on Thursday.

Amongst the longer term injuries, Jacques-Louis Potgieter (1 week, hamstring), Flip van der Merwe (pectoral, 2 weeks) and Akona Ndungane (hand, 3 weeks) are a week closer to returning to the fold.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

The Vodacom Bulls fully support the South African Rugby Union’s plan to rest key Springboks, but there won’t be a mass withdrawal of players at any stage.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said the next 5 weeks will see the Bulls rotate the players in a calculated move that is in line with the SARU plan.

In a meeting between SARU, the national body’s CEO, Jurie Roux, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, the various franchise CEOs and coaching representatives it was agreed that franchise coaches – as far as possible – would rest key Springboks at various stages in the season.

Two principles were identified as being ideal:

  1. That players should not play more than 5 consecutive weeks.
  2. That certain Springbok players should have a number of weeks of rest during the tournament (2 to 4 weeks depending on each player’s personal needs and position and the franchise’s playing resources). Bye weeks are not considered as a rest week (although they do trigger a restart of the count of consecutive weeks), while injury weeks are ‘invisible’ (i.e. a player injured for 2 weeks during the 1st 7 weeks of the tournament would be regarded as having played 5 consecutive weeks at the end of week 7).

However, the Sharks have already bucked the system – with coach Gary Gold having said his outfit is in a different position to other SA outfits.

The Bulls have opted to take a different stance.

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Super RugbyThe Emirates Lions won their 2nd tour match as the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks had to dig deep to win at home in an interesting 6th Round of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The men from Johannesburg weathered an early storm and clinched their 3rd successive win over the Melbourne Rebels, by 20 / 16, courtesy of a late try by Lionel Mapoe on Friday in Melbourne. With this victory, the Emirates Lions emulated their feats in 2007 and 2011, when they also won 2 tour matches.

On Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs started well and were in front at the break against the Crusaders in Christchurch, but the home team took proper advantage of 2 second-half Yellow Cards against the visitors from Bloemfontein to win comfortably by 57 / 14.

2 Matches were played in South Africa on Saturday afternoon, both in less-than-perfect conditions.

First up, the Vodacom Bulls had to rely on a late penalty goal by Handré Pollard to pip the Force by 25 / 24 in Pretoria before the Cell C Sharks, playing for more than 50 minutes with 13 men against 14, following 3 Red Cards, had to dig deep to beat the Chiefs by 12 / 11 in Durban.

The DHL Stormers had a BYE.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls left it late, beating the Force 25 / 24 with a late penalty.

Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked 20 points as his Vodacom Bulls side sneaked home against the Western Force in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Marcel van der Merwe scored a try but his team were outscored 3 to 1 in the try-scoring stakes, as the Force’s spoiling game worked exceptionally well on their opponents. The Bulls failed to capitalise on the Force being down to 13 men at one stage.

The Bulls, who had just returned from a BYE week, were poor and out-of-sorts, and for large periods of time it looked as if it was the Force who were the home side with the way they played.

But thanks to Pollard they managed to sneak home through a penalty in the last minute, shortly after Sias Ebersohn kicked a 59-metre bomb that gave the Force the lead.

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Vodacom BullsMarcel van der Merwe and Dean Greyling will earn 1st starts in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition as Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 3 changes to his pack that will face the Western Force at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Van der Merwe and Greyling, who both made late starts to the competition due to injury, will swop places with Trevor Nyakane and Morné Mellett respectively. In anther swop, Grant Hattingh will earn his 1st start of the season whilst Victor Matfield will move to the bench.

The bench also has 2 new faces this week, with Arno Botha returning and Jaco Visagie replacing the injured Callie Visagie as hooker replacement. Should he take to the field, Visagie will make his Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Super Rugby debut.

Botha, who was injured in the season’s opener against the DHL Stormers, is fit again and replaces Hanro Liebenberg.

Ludeke left his backs unchanged.

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Dayan van der Westhuizen

Dayan van der Westhuizen

Tian Schoeman

Tian Schoeman

Dean Greyling

Dean Greyling

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed the extensions of contracts with Springbok prop Dean Greyling, Vodacom Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman and Junior Springbok prop Dayan van der Westhuizen.

All 3 have signed contracts that will keep them Loftus-based till 2017, Xander Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager of the BBC confirmed.

The trio are all products of the Blue Bulls youth structures and hails from local Pretoria schools.

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Western ForceWestern Force utility back Marcel Brache is no stranger to Loftus Versfeld. That is why he feels the men from Perth requires a ‘change of attitude’.

The Force arrived in South Africa this week, ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby Round 6 encounter, with a few injury concerns.

Their opponents, the Vodacom Bulls, are coming off a BYE – which was preceded by morale-boosting victories over the Cell C Sharks (43 / 35) and Toyota Cheetahs (39 / 20).

The Force, in stark contrast, have lost to the Reds, Hurricanes, Brumbies and Rebels – despite an opening round win over the defending champion Waratahs.

And there is concern over the fitness of prop Pek Cowan, who is in a race against time to recover from a shoulder knock. Sydney prop Guy Millar has been called into the squad as cover.

Other injury concerns include Luke Morahan (hamstring), Angus Cottrell (ankle), and Dane Haylett-Petty (foot). They are more likely to be fit than Cowan.

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Callie Visagie

Callie Visagie

Akona Ndungane

Akona Ndungane

Vodacom Bulls hooker Callie Visagie and wing Akona Ndungane has been ruled of out action for this weekend’s VodacomSuper Rugby match against the Western Force at Loftus Versfeld, it was confirmed on Monday.

Ndungane has in fact been ruled out for a month after he broke his hand, while Visagie will miss the clash against the Perth side due to a chest injury.

Jacques-Louis Potgieter, who missed the last match against the Toyota Cheetahs due to a hamstring strain, will train on Tuesday and should be fit to be considered for the weekend.

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Arno Botha

Arno Botha

The Vodacom Bulls are enjoying a BYE during this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby action and this will help the squad to get rid of little niggles, aches and pains. Chomping at the bit will be flanker Arno Botha, who is now fit again, having played off the bench for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup this weekend and playing in a starting position in the Vodacom Cup side on the weekend.

The rest will also result in a break for Callie Visagie (ribs), Lappies Labuschagne (SC joint) and Jacques-Louis Potgieter (hamstring), who will all again train next Monday.

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Vodacom Bulls vs Toyota Cheetahs

The Vodacom Bulls’ recent revival continued as they secured a 39 / 20 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday… moving them to 2nd in the SA Conference.

Handré Pollard was the visitors’ hero as he contributed 29 points via a try, 5 penalties, 3 conversions and a drop-goal. After last weekend’s morale-boosting win over the Sharks, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke will be delighted with the way his side dominated this game for large periods.

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BullsVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named the same run-on team from last weekend to face the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday in Bloemfontein in their first away trip in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

The same 15 that ran out in the win over the Cell C Sharks will front up in the Free State Stadium as the Vodacom Bulls looks to build the momentum gathered from the win against the coastal side.

Ludeke only made 1 change to the bench, where Piet van Zyl returns to Bloemfontein to face his former Super Rugby team.

“We finally found the momentum we were looking for in the opening rounds of the competition against the Sharks and managed 4 tries,” Ludeke said in Pretoria on Thursday.

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Jesse Kriel

Jesse Kriel

Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel says he’ll be making the most of his opportunities given to him this season.

Kriel, just 21, is quickly becoming a crowd favourite in Pretoria as he continues his rugby rise through the Bulls ranks.

While the team experienced a disappointing start to the Super Ruby campaign, suffering back-to-back defeats against the Stormers and Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld, they managed a 43 / 35 win over the Sharks in front of their home crowd last weekend.

Kriel has been one of the Bulls’ consistent performers during the Super Rugby campaign, and was delighted his team-mates could pull off a good victory against last year’s South African conference winners.

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Arno Botha

Arno Botha

Vodacom Bulls loose forward Arno Botha will return to training next week after recovering well from a pectoral muscle tear, but flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter could be on the side-lines for another week.

According to Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss, Botha will train next Monday and Potgieter, who picked up a hamstring injury last week, will be assessed then. Potgieter was a late withdrawal from the Bulls team that won against the Cell C Sharks on the weekend and could be out of action for 2 weeks.

No one picked up any injuries in that win, although Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann and Lappies Labuschagne only trained on Tuesday, due to light niggles.

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Super RugbyThe Toyota Cheetahs, Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers were victorious in 3 terrific Vodacom Super Rugby matches, as the competition really took off in the 3rd Round.

On Friday evening, the Toyota Cheetahs sneaked home against the Blues in Bloemfontein, winning their 2nd match of the season by 25 / 24 to remain 1 of only 4 unbeaten teams in 2015.

Saturday saw 2 local derbies of the highest calibre, with Test-like intensity. Mirrroing the encounter in Bloemfontein, the results of both these matches were in the balance right until the end.

The Vodacom Bulls prodcued their maiden win of the season when they beat the Cell C Sharks by 43 / 35 in a superb match in Pretoria. Then the DHL Stormers clocked their 3rd win from 3 matches when they beat the Emirates Lions by 22 / 19 in Johannesburg.

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Wiaan Liebenberg

Wiaan Liebenberg

Montpellier coach Jake White has his sights set on luring young Blue Bulls loose forward Wiaan Liebenberg to France.

The 22-year-old former Baby Bok captain is currently not in the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans – which makes a move to France very likely.

Loose forwards like Lappies Labuschagne, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann and his brother Hanro are ahead of Liebenberg in the pecking order at the Bulls.

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Marcel van der Merwe

Marcel van der Merwe

Vodacom Bulls prop Marcel van der Merwe has been cleared to return to the playing field and trained with the squad, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

The prop has recovered from a hamstring injury and ligament strain.

News on the injury of midfielder William Small-Smith has been less fortunate though, with the player being ruled out for at least 2 months with a foot injury.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke faces one of the toughest challenges of his career this week – resurrecting the Bulls campaign.

2 Losses at home from 2 outings has piled on the pressure for the Bulls, with the prospect of their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign further coming off the rails if they don’t beat the Cell C Sharks this coming weekend at Loftus.

And given their current form, it is a mighty ask.

All the promise and excitement pre-season for the Bulls with big victories over Saracens and the Toyota Cheetahs has been burnt up by 2 mediocre outings on their own hallowed turf.

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Vodacom BullsThe Vodacom Bulls lost their 2nd successive home match when the Hurricanes caused a minor upset by winning 17 / 13 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening.

The last time the 3-time champions lost consecutive matches at home was in Rounds 2 and 3 in 2008. Incidentally, that was also the last year the Hurricanes won in Pretoria before this weekend.

The home team could not get into gear and were heavily penalised by referee Andre Lees. These and other errors proved very costly in the end.

Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard scored all the Vodacom Bulls’ points through a try, conversion and 2 penalty goals.

In the aftermath to the match, the Bulls and Hurricanes Press Conferences were a sight to behold!

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, wide-eyed as ever, seemed more strained than usual and once again underlined what he perceived as positives to be taken from the game. Captain Pierre Spies could not hide the shame and it appeared that he was deliberately looking down to avoid eye-contact with menbers of the Media.

On the other hand, Hurricanes Coach Chris Boys was in a juvial mode, making an early joke during the Press Conference, yet also stating that although they achieved to come “take Points” in South Africa, that he was not yet satisfied and felt that the Hurricans should improve.

 

Here are the Audio streams of the After Match Press Conferences:

Bulls after match Press Conference:

 

Hurricanes after match Press Conference:

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Jesse Kriel

Jesse Kriel

Regular captain and No 8 Pierre Spies is back at the helm of the Vodacom Bulls when they take on the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld on Friday in Round 2 of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

Spies takes over the captaincy from Victor Matfield and the No 8 jumper from Arno Botha, who picked up an injury in the Vodacom Bulls tournament opener last weekend against the DHL Stormers.

The regular Bulls leader was eased back into action off the bench, but is now fit to start in a team that shows 4 changes to the starting line-up and 6 all-together from the one that started their campaign with a disappointing loss against the Cape side.

Spies comes in for Botha, with his place on the bench taken by rookie loose forward Hanro Liebenberg, who could earn a first start should he take to the field.

The injury to Werner Kruger also resulted in a front row shuffle. Trevor Nyakane will move from the left side of the front row to the right and Morné Mellett off the bench into the No 1 jersey.

A fit-again Dean Greyling will take Mellett’s place on the bench.

The other unforced change is at fullback where Jesse Kriel will start, with Jurgen Visser moving down to the bench in a straight swop with the Junior Springbok player.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls took quite a beating on the weekend against a DHL Stormers side who boasted far fewer Springboks and seasoned players than the Bulls.

Nick Mallett talks about how bad the Bulls really were.

JJ Engelbrecht, cited for a dangerous tackle received an off-field Yellow Card – a stern warning not to repeat the type of incident.

Frans Ludeke, Vodacom Bulls coach portrayed his usual diplomatic self… or is that his usual dim-witted self as some would have us believe, when questioned on the Bulls lacklustre performance on the weekend.

The Bulls also released a fitness report today, which reads like a war-veterans hospital checklist, with 3 more injuries, ahead of the Hurricanes clash on Friday evening. The injuries, specially amongst frontrowers are worrying, very worrying seeing as the Bulls scrums have been degenerating at a rate of knots in 2015… well actually for a number of seasons now… and the Bulls Brains Trust, if one could call it that, seems to have no answers to shore up the Bulls scrumming woes.

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