Bulls scrumhalf stocks tested
Ockert de Villiers - Sport24
Pretoria – The Bulls averted a mini-crisis at scrumhalf when Piet van Zyl was ruled out for six months a week before they embark on their Australasian tour.
Rudy Paige is in the final three days of his rehabilitation following a knock to the knee a fortnight ago and will recover in time for their four-week visit to Australia and New Zealand.
The Light Blues have called up Tuks halfback Andre Warner as the third scrumhalf on tour behind Paige and Francois Hougaard.
Hougaard, who has been a revelation on the wing for the Bulls this season could be back in his favoured scrumhalf position in their opening tour match against the Blues in Auckland next weekend.
However, Paige was confident that he would be fighting fit to do duty in the No 9-jersey and hoped to stake a claim for higher honours.
“I was actually fortunate not to have been out for longer, so I am just delighted to be playing again and to be back in the blue jersey,” Paige said on Wednesday.
“I have three days left of rehab and on Monday I will join the team in training again.”
Although Hougaard has undoubtedly been the form South African wing this year he should be included in the Springboks’ World Cup group as backup scrumhalf with Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar likely to be selected as specialist halfbacks.
Paige said he would nevertheless use the final stages of this year’s Super Rugby competition to sway the Springbok selectors.
“The goal is obviously to make the Springbok squad for the World Cup but the focus at the moment is just to play good rugby,” Paige said.
“I believe if I perform well consistently it should improve my chances of making the final squad of 31 players and be part of the World Cup.
“Being part of the Springbok camp certainly gives me hope, and it makes you hungrier to wear the Green and Gold and to be part of the World Cup group.”
The Bulls also announced on Wednesday that Werner Kruger, Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Dean Greyling would join the touring squad for the overseas leg of their Vodacom Super Rugby tour to Australasia.
Kruger has recovered from an ankle injury after several weeks on the sidelines, while Potgieter (hamstring) and Greyling (leg) was also declared fit.
Burger Odendaal, who suffered an ankle sprain over the weekend has been cleared to tour with Travis Ismaiel included in the squad as extra outside back.
The Bulls play the Blues in Auckland on May 15, the Chiefs in Rotorua on May 22 before they move to Australia.
They then face the Brumbies in Canberra on May 29 and the Rebels in Melbourne on June 6 to end their tour.
Bulls tour squad: Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Travis Ismaiel, Jan Serfontein, Burger Odendaal, Handré Pollard, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Francois Hougaard, Andre Warner, Arno Botha, Jacques du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Deon Stegmann, Lappies Labuschagne, Victor Matfield, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Marcel van der Merwe, Trevor Nyakane, Dean Greyling, Morné Mellett, Adriaan Strauss, Callie Visagie, Jaco Visagie.