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Vodacom Bulls

Piet van Zyl

Piet van Zyl

Vodacom Bulls scrumhalf Piet van Zyl has been ruled out of rugby for the remainder of the season after he sustained a knee injury in last weekend’s win over the Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld.

Van Zyl ruptured his ACL in his left knee, Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

Dean Greyling, who was injured in a vehicle accident last week, picked up a hematoma on his right leg and will be back on the training field on 18 May.

Midfielder Burger Odendaal is also not training this week due to an ankle injury picked up in the match, but will be ready to play on 11 May.

Next Monday is also the date being pencilled in for Rudy Paige to return to the field, following his knee rehab.

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Xander Janse van Rensburg

Xander Janse van Rensburg

Reports of a mass exodus from the Vodacom Bulls at the end of the season have been rubbished by the franchise.

According to weekend reports a host of Bulls – which include Pierre Spies, Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann, Akona Ndungane and JJ Engelbrecht – will head to Japan after the conclusion of the Super Rugby season.

It was billed as the “biggest exodus” since 2013 – when the Bulls lost 20-odd frontline players, including the likes of Juandré Kruger, Wynand Olivier, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Zane Kirchner, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dewald Potgieter and Jacques­ Potgieter.

However, Xander Janse van Rensburg, the High Performance Manager at the Blue Bulls Company, said that the facts of the reports are far removed from the truth.

“JJ and Grant have Japan clauses in their contracts,” Janse van Rensburg said, adding that the duo will head to Japan after the Super Rugby season, missing the Currie Cup competition, and will then return for Super Rugby 2016.

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DHL StormersBased on their last 3 performances, it may seem foolhardy to some to suggest the DHL Stormers retain the inside lane for the SA Conference honours in Super Rugby this year.

Certainly if you were a non-partisan observer watching their unconvincing, tense and sparkle-lacking victories over the Western Force and Vodacom Bulls, and then Saturday’s extension of a ballooning Bloemfontein bogey as an under-strength Cheetahs outfit put a nasty spanner in their works, placing money on their domestic superiority come the end of ordinary season might seem a risky business indeed.

Yet the Capetonians, now bumped back into 2nd spot in the South African Conference, as the Bulls earned a full house of Log Points from a high-quality home derby triumph over the Lions in Saturday night’s main feature, probably remain the best-placed team in terms of remaining itinerary demands to end up on top.

They have an immediate chance next weekend anyway to recapture the lead in a yo-yo tussle as they entertain Australian pace-setters the Brumbies at Newlands, whereas the Bulls slowly muster their energy for their overseas tour via a BYE.

The Loftus-based side currently have a 4-Point lead over their great southern rivals after 11 matches each and 5 to go ahead of the finals series phase.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls are back at the Top of the South African Conference, taking over from the DHL Stormers who came up short in Bloemfontein on an exhilarating Saturday of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The weekend started on a disappointing note for the Cell C Sharks in Dunedin though. After a solid start for the visitors, the Highlanders turned on the heat and eventually beat the Durbanites by 48 / 15 in their opening tour match Down Under.

Saturday saw 2 cracking local derbies, both won by the home teams.

1st Up, the Toyota Cheetahs caused a minor upset when they won their 3rd successive home game against the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein, by 25 / 17.

The home team outscored the visitors by 3 tries to 2 and thoroughly deserved their 4th win of the season. It was also only the 3rd time in 14 matches that the DHL Stormers could not score any Log Points against the Toyota Cheetahs.

The final match of the weekend was a proper humdinger in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls beat their neighbours, the Emirates Lions, by 35 / 33. A total of 7 tries were scored as both sides went hammer and tongs against each other for the full 80 minutes.

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BullsThe Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed that 3 players, Dean Greyling, Basil Short and Hencus van Wyk, were withdrawn from this weekend’s matches for the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls after suffering minor injuries in a car crash on Wednesday.

Greyling (knee) and Van Wyk (scrape wounds) were due to play for the Vodacom Bulls against the Emirates Lions and Short (neck) for the Vodacom Blue Bulls against the Limpopo Blue Bulls on Saturday.

They will be replaced by Morné Mellett, Dayan van der Westhuizen and Nqoba Mxoli respectively.

According to Xander Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager of the Blue Bulls Company, the trio were returning home from a quick hunting trip just outside Pretoria when their vehicle overturned.

“We are grateful that they did not sustain any serious injuries. Dean injured his knee, Hencus suffered some burns and Basil injured his neck, which resulted in him spending the night in hospital for observation. We wish them a speedy recovery.”

Greyling and Van Wyk is still due to travel with the Bulls on their overseas leg of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, departing Sunday.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

The Vodacom Bulls, fresh off a narrow loss to the DHL Stormers this past weekend, next face the ever-improving Emirates Lions, at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday in the last Super Rugby match of the weekend.

It appears as though regular captain Pierre Spies is under the weather and will therefor sit out of the clash, with Victor Matfield back from Springbok rest and injury recovery set to take over the captaince helm for the vital match.

Meanwhile head coach Frans Ludeke is still moaning and groaning about the difficult laws and interpreations of those laws by the Super Rugby Referees.

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Deon Stegmann

Deon Stegmann

Dean Greyling

Dean Greyling

The Vodacom Bulls, need a complete rethink of their game approach and selection criteria, after a loss on the weekend against the DHL Stormers once again exposed why the Bulls will keep struggling.

The answer is simple… scrum penalties are destrying Bulls chances left, right and centre – and 1 prop in particular, Dean Greyling, cost the Bulls the difference between a win and a loss on the weekend.

No less than 9 easy penalty points can directly be ascribed to Dean Greyling’s inability to scrum correctly and legally. It is not a new thing either, he has picked up a plethera of scrum penalties in the last number of seasons and his general scrumming technique at loosehead prop has always been severely flawed. He is simply put, a scrumming liability, and is exploited at scrum time week after week by every Tom, Dick and Harry who plays against him!

Dean picked up 4 crucial scrum penalties on the weekend, but Marcel van der Merwe also picked up an additional 3 scrum penalties. That means 7 scrum penallties, which were either put into points against the Bulls or which robbed them of valuable possession and territory.

In anybody’s book, bar maybe in the crumpled “Book of Fools & Favourites” of Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, it is seen as a HUGE problem!

Things looked radically better in the 2nd half, when Morné Mellett was at loosehead prop and Trevor Nyakane at tighthead prop.

In addition to the clear prop and scrumming conundrum at the Bulls, one needs to start questioning the validity of continuing with Deon Stegmann at openside flank, as he is also a huge penalty offender! When Lappies Labuschagne replaced Stegmann at openside flank and Arno Botha replaced Jacques du Plessis at blindside flank, the Bulls suddenly entered their most productive and least penalized period of the match and the ground ball and breakdown situation control swung nicely in favour of the Bulls, so much so that the Bulls effectively ‘WON’ the 2nd half battle on the scoreboard, by 10 points to 3 and coming within a whisker of stealing the honours at the end of the game.

If these basic and fundamental aspects are not fixed, and immediately so, one can already start writing “Also-Runs 2015” on the shirt of every Bulls player and on every Bulls supporter’s jersey, alongside that tag which is already emblazened there for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014!

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Piet van Zyl

Piet van Zyl

Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein

Springbok halfback Piet van Zyl will earn a 3rd start for the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday when the Pretoria franchise play the DHL Stormers in Cape Town in a crucial Vodacom Super Rugby clash.

Van Zyl, who started against the coastal side in the season’s opener in February, comes in for injured Rudy Paige, while coach Frans Ludeke added another Springbok, midfielder Jan Serfontein, to his starting team at DHL Newlands.

The incumbent Springbok centre is fit again after a hip flexor injury and will start in place of Burger Odendaal, who deputised for Serfontein the last 4 Rounds.

The rest of the match day squad is the same one which conquered the Cell C Sharks in Durban last weekend, bar Akona Ndungane, who will take up Van Zyl’s spot on the bench.

The centurion winger will make a 1st appearance in this year’s competition if called into action from the bench. He earned his last and 108th cap in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition in the final pool match of the 2014 competition against the same opponent and at the same venue.

Ludeke is well aware of the massive challenge that awaits his side against the Stormers, who are just 2 points behind the Vodacom Bulls on the Combined Log and South African Conference Points Log.

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Super RugbyThe DHL Stormers finished their Australasian tour with a 2nd win while the Vodacom Bulls consolidated their position at the Top of the South African Conference as Vodacom Super Rugby 2015 entered the 2nd half of the season.

However, the Toyota Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks both lost at home as the teams from Pretoria and Cape Town opened up a bit of a gap in the local conference and the Vodacom Bulls moved up to 2nd on the overall log.

The DHL Stormers were made to work hard for a scrappy win in Perth on Saturday afternoon as they defeated the struggling Western Force by 13 / 6, the only 5-pointer of the encounter a Penalty Try to the visitors after yet another superb scrum. The win concluded their best Australasian tour in 3 years.

Back home, the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks delivered a typically hard local derby in Durban with the 3-time champions from Pretoria ultimately winning by 17 / 10, with each team scoring a solitary try.

The Toyota Cheetahs unfortunately could not build on their good win in Perth last weekend when they were beaten by 18 / 17 by the Reds in Bloemfontein.

Down Under, the defending champions – the Waratahs and the Chiefs recorded impressive victories in Wellington and Christchurch respectively.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Vodacom Bulls halfbacks Rudy Paige and Jacques-Louis Potgieter will not be considered for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the DHL Stormers in Cape Town due to injury.

Paige has a grade 1 medial ligament tear and will be out of action for at least 2 weeks, whilst Potgieter have a grade 1 hamstring tear and will be ready to return to action on 4 May, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

Burger Odendaal (hamstring), Bjorn Basson (knee), Flip van der Merwe (knee) and Arno van Wyk (bronchitis) sat out in training on Monday, with Odendaal only returning Thursday.

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DHL StormersBullsThe Bulls may hold a 2-point lead over the Stormers at the Top of the South African conference, but probably still need victory more than their hosts do in Saturday’s spicy Super Rugby derby at Newlands (19:10 SA Time).

Put it this way: if the Stormers repeat their 1st-round triumph at Loftus (29 / 17 then) they will become extremely firm favourites to win the conference.

As things stand, the Capetonians have 7 ordinary-season matches remaining, with 5 of them at home and only 2 away, whereas for the Bulls it is exactly the other way around – 2 at home and 5 away, including the formidable 4-game tour abroad.

So even if the Stormers lose to the old enemy on Saturday, they would still probably fancy their chances of leapfrogging the Loftus-based outfit at a later stage of the run-in.

Bear in mind that last season the Bulls failed to win a single fixture overseas, so they may require at least 2 this time if they are to thwart the Stormers’ own quest to end the local standings atop the pile.

At least 2 of the Australasian challenges facing the Bulls pretty soon will come from teams similarly pressing hard to make the playoff cut, in the form of the Chiefs and Brumbies (the other games will be against the Blues and Melbourne Rebels).

So it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that the Stormers’ remaining schedule – their own overseas trip now completed with a tidy enough haul of 10 points from a possible 20 – is by some way the more favourable.

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke reshuffled his pack of forwards and recalled Handré Pollard at flyhalf for his team to face the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Pollard, who replaces Jacques-LouisPotgieter in the only change to the backline that won against the Reds in their Vodacom Super Rugby clash last weekend, was rested last week as per SARU arrangement.

In the pack, Ludeke has Adriaan Strauss back after the hooker was also rested against the Reds, while he also picked a new loose trio, lock combination and front row to face the coastal side in the visitor’s 1st return match in the South African conference.

In the front row, Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe will start with Dean Greyling, with Callie Visagie and Trevor Nyakane moving to the bench. The lock combination of Flip van der Merwe and Grant Hattingh will pack down together for the 1st time this year, with Jacques du Plessis moving to the side of the scrum, where he will partner Deon Stegmann and Pierre Spies.

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Adriaan Strauss

Adriaan Strauss

Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Incumbent Springboks Adriaan Strauss, Jan Serfontein and Handré Pollard is fit again and will be considered for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Cell C Sharks in Durban.

According to Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss, all 3 are ready to travel to the East Coast, along with Lappies Labuschagne, who recovered from the shoulder injury which kept him out of action for the matches against the Crusaders, Emirates Lions and Reds.

Adriaan Strauss was rested against the Reds according to the SARU agreement, while Jan Serfontein last played against the Western Force and Pollard against the Crusaders.

A number of players, Jacques-Louis Potgieter (hamstring), Marcel van der Merwe (ankle), Burger Odendaal (contusion), Bjorn Basson (ankle) and Morné Mellett (back spasm) did not train on Monday, but will be back on Tuesday, Strauss confirmed. Akona Ndungane has also recovered from a broken hand.

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Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

The Vodacom Bulls may be on top of the South African Super Rugby conference, but they know there’s a tough road ahead until the end of regular season play.

The Bulls thrashed the Reds 43 / 22 at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, but out of their 8 remaining league matches, only 2 will be at home.

They tackle the Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers away over the next 2 weeks, before facing the Emirates Lions at home.

After that, 4 games in Australasia await against the Blues (15 May), Chiefs (22 May), Brumbies (29 May) and Melbourne Rebels (6 June).

Their last league game is at home against the Toyota Cheetahs on 13 June.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls held onto their leadership of a ferociously contested South African Conference on a weekend of success at the expense of Australian teams.

The Vodacom Bulls maintained their 2-point advantage over the DHL Stormers on the Log – as both recorded bonus point victories over the Reds (43 / 22) and Waratahs (32 / 18) respectively – while the Toyota Cheetahs showed enormous character to finish their tour on a high in Perth, with a win over the Western Force (24 / 15).

In the South African derby at Emirates Airlines Park, the Emirates Lions underlined the seriousness of their challenge for the Conference title with 2-point victory (23 / 21) over a significantly improved Cell C Sharks, who missed a long-range last-kick penalty, which could have snatched the victory.

The upshot of the weekend was that the Top 4 SA teams are separated by just 4 Log Points – in contrast to their fellow conferences where the Hurricanes top the standings as New Zealand’s Top 4 are spread by 11 points, while an even more clear-cut Australian race sees the Brumbies head a Log in which 17 points cover the Top 4 Australian contenders.

3 Of SA’s winners had to overcome halftime deficits to record victories, with the most notable being those of the DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs who achieved it on Australian soil.

However, the margins were small – both trailed by 2 points – while the Emirates Lions turned round 3 points adrift of the Cell C Sharks, as all 3 teams showed fitness and character to ‘win’ the 2nd half.

In the other match, the Vodacom Bulls’ recent home success over the Reds continued, as they stomped to a 6-try victory, with Francois Hougaard scoring 2 tries from the wing to take his tally to 4 for the season and therefore joining Marcell Coetzee as the leading South African try scorers.

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Super RugbyWith only 2 points separating 4 of the South African franchises on the Vodacom Super Rugby log after 8 weeks of play, Round 9 of the competition will again be crucial for local teams, with the derby in Johannesburg between the Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks set to attract huge interest from spectators.

The remaining 3 South African sides play Australian opponents on Saturday, with the DHL Stormers taking on the Waratahs in Sydney, the Toyota Cheetahs playing the Western Force in Perth and the Vodacom Bulls closing out a big weekend of rugby in their Pretoria clash against the Reds.

The DHL Stormers will be looking for a 1st tour win against the defending champion Waratahs, knowing that the home side has won 12 of their last 13 matches in Sydney, with a victory margin of 18 points per match.

The Toyota Cheetahs will still be chasing a 1st overseas win in 2015, when they close out their tour against the Western Force at the NIB Stadium in Perth. The Cheetahs have won at this venue in the past, but will have to defend like never before.

They average the most missed tackles in the competition, while the home side maintains the best tackling success rate (90%).

The Emirates Lions host the Cell C Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in the only South African derby of the weekend, which is expected to be a fiercely contested clash. The home team is well aware that a win could push them into 1st place in the South African conference, albeit that the Vodacom Bulls could again overhaul them later in the evening.

The Cell C Sharks will be desperate to put their recent misfortunes behind them and win away from home.

The Vodacom Bulls take on the Reds, who despite not having the greatest of seasons, have a good record against the Loftus Versfeld team, winning 10 of their 16 encounters. Continue reading

Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 2 changes to his starting team that will take on the Reds in a Vodacom Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss is given a rest in compliance the Springbok rest agreement with the 5e franchises and Callie Visagie will start in the No 2 jersey. This will be Visagie’s 1st start of the season. His place on the bench will be taken by Jaco Visagie, who on 2 previous occasions this season did bench duty.

The other change from the side that came up short in Johannesburg against the Emirates Lions is at flank, where a fit-again Arno Botha will replace Hanro Liebenberg. Botha recovered from a hamstring strain, with Liebenberg replacing Roelof Smit on the bench.

Another new face on the bench is that of Flip van der Merwe, who replaces Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg. Van der Merwe missed the 1st half of the season due to a pectoral muscle tear, but is keen to add to his 72 caps in the competition.

“It is great to have Flip back,” Ludeke said.

“He does not only provide a physical presence and some real grunt up front, he is also an important leader in the squad and with Victor Matfield out for a couple of weeks, Flip’s return could not come at a better time. “

The coach also opted to give Handré Pollard and Jan Serfontein another week off, with the latter also rested due to theSARU arrangement.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

The Vodacom Bulls medical staff on Tuesday confirmed that lock Victor Matfield will undergo surgery on his injured knee (right) and will be out of action for 3 to 4 weeks.

According to Vodacom Bulls doctor Org Strauss, Matfield is going into surgery tomorrow (Wednesday) for an arthroscopy on the knee to fix up damaged cartilage.

Matfield could have played the season without undergoing the procedure, but the decision was made as a precautionary measure building towards the World Cup.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

The Vodacom Bulls will get a number of Springboks back this week, but there is growing concern over the knee injury of veteran lock Victor Matfield.

Matfield will only know on Tuesday when he will play again.

He was originally listed as being ‘rested’ for the encounter with the Lions last week, but it has since emerged that the knee injury was the real problem.

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Arno Botha

Arno Botha

Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

Springboks Flip van der Merwe and Arno Botha have returned to full training following a pectoral and hamstring injury respectively and will be considered for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Reds at Loftus Versfeld.

They will join the likes of Jan Serfontein and Handré Pollard, who missed last weekend’s clash against the Emirates Lions, but Victor Matfield will only know on Tuesday when he will play again. The lock, who has a meniscal knee strain, will see knee specialist Dr Daan du Plessis on Tuesday to determine how long he will be out of action.

Jesse Kriel (ribs), Burger Odendaal (arm), JJ Engelbrecht (pectoral), Trevor Nyakane (shoulder) and Jacques du Plessis (muscle spasm) all picked up light niggles on the weekend and sat out training on Monday, team doctor Org Strauss said.

All of them will be back in action on Tuesday, as well as Basil Short, who recovered from concussion.

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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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