Early Bulls return for Bakkies
Pretoria – The Blue Bulls always believe that a glass is half full rather than half empty, and that every dark cloud has a silver lining.
Take Bakkies Botha, for example.
The Springbok lock was due to undergo a thorough conditioning programme at the end of the Tri-Nations and would then only have been available for the Blue Bulls for the semi-finals of the Currie Cup.
However, he may now run out for the Bulls on September 11 against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Botha’s suspension of nine weeks ends on September 4, but in the meantime the big lock is working hard in the gym and on the training field, where he is focusing on strength and speed.
His suspension from Test rugby may therefore indirectly help the Blue Bulls to successfully defend the Currie Cup.
Quite ironically, Botha and his anticipated successor at the Bulls and Springboks – Flip van der Merwe – trained sprints together at Loftus Versfeld on Monday.
Botha and Bok team-mate Victor Matfield sweated together and a while later Van der Merwe also got in a few runs with the team preparing for Friday’s game against the Leopards.
Van der Merwe will appear in a judicial hearing in Johannesburg on Tuesday after being cited for an alleged punch in the match against the Lions.
The fact that he ran separately from the other players in the final training session points to the Bulls anticipating a suspension.
Van der Merwe’s citing along with that of the Lions’ Trevor Hall emphasises how tough things can get in the heat of the battle.
Fudge Mabeta should replace Van der Merwe if the 25-year-old Bok lock is found guilty.
Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke showed his hand a little ahead of the Leopards clash and it appears as if Bok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle will be in the starting line-up.
Gary Botha is expected to be rested and Ralepelle gets his first start of the year.
Derick Kuün is expected to captain the side.
Scrumhalf Francois Hougaard has been passed fit after being troubled by a calf injury.