Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - The Bulls could unleash a new dream midfield pairing ahead of their Gauteng Challenge game against the Lions in Soweto on Saturday as they begin their preparations for the Super Rugby season ahead.
According to the Supersport.com website, while the Bulls were buoyed by the return of veteran Wynand Olivier from Japan on Monday, the blonde midfielder will rejoin his team-mates from Tuesday, but will not be considered for this weekend’s match, even though it is reported he is injury free and raring to play.
It was initially feared that Olivier may miss the start of the season with his Japanese team’s progress in their domestic competition, but this hasn’t been the case and Olivier returned home to South Africa on the weekend.
With Francois Venter also ruled out of action with a groin injury and not considered this week for selection, the Bulls are likely to play their import Lionel Mapoe at outside centre, while the inside centre position is likely to fall to IRB Junior Player of the year for 2012, Jan Serfontein.
The duo are expected to be a major part of the Bulls plans for the season and it will be interesting to see how they gel, as both are known as influential attackers in the backline with Bok futures ahead of them.
While the coaching staff are likely to mix and match their selection for this game, giving opportunities to young players in a mix of youth and experience, there have been some players ruled out through injury.
With lock Wilhelm Steenkamp (shoulder), prop Marcel van der Merwe (knee) and prop Dean Greyling (stress fracture, foot) already ruled out through pre-season injuries, the list got a bit longer as team doctor Org Strauss confirmed that Boks Zane Kirchner and Werner Kruger are also not being considered for this weekend’s game.
Kirchner and Kruger both have back strains, while import hooker Callie Visagie is also out with a hamstring. All three should be ready for next weekend’s match against the Cheetahs in Polokwane.
Currie Cup captain Dewald Potgieter will rejoin training on Tuesday while fellow loose forward Jean Cooke will undergo a fitness test on Wednesday. But on the positive side, flyhalf Louis Fouche, utility back Ulrich Beyers, winger Akona Ndungane and flank/lock Grant Hattingh are all over their niggles and can be considered for selection.
The SA Under-20s have also rejoined the team and will be considered for action, with IRB Junior Rugby World Championship winning captain Wian Liebenberg resuming training on Tuesday after a hamstring strain.
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