Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke defended the dropping of flyhalf Louis Fouché from the squad to face the Lions in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, saying the decision to elevate Jacques-Louis Potgieter from outside the squad was because he was “on form.”
According to supersport.com website, Potgieter leap-frogged prodigy Handré Pollard as well as he was included in the starting line-up on Wednesday, and while the decision may well spell the end of Fouché’s hopes for the meantime, relegating him to third spot in the flyhalf race, it is also a lease of life for Potgieter, who re-joined the Bulls from Bayonne last month.
Potgieter put in an excellent performance in Polokwane in the pre-season game against the Stormers and followed it up with an impressive 20 points against the Cheetahs Vodacom Cup team in the curtain-raiser to last Friday night’s Super Rugby loss.
But Fouché, who has had poor form in the Bulls’ opening two losses, seemingly is the scapegoat for the defeats, with Ludeke saying he decided to rather go with the in form flyhalf.
“It’s a tough decision. It’s almost a better decision for Louis, if you think about it. He’s a talented player, but we decided on the old head - the guy who is on song. He played in Polokwane and he played well in the curtain-raiser in Bloemfontein. He’s out from a season in France where he played until the weekend before he joined us,” Ludeke said.
“He’s on, if you could call it that. You compare that to Handré (Pollard) and Louis is coming back from an injury, and we were satisfied with his preparation. We backed him, we believe he has a special talent and at the moment we decided to go for someone who has an old head, and whose game is on. We pulled Louis a bit back, we will work with him to get his confidence back.
“It’s small things - his overall game was fantastic. His kicking accuracy was 74% with all his kicks, it was just that his goalkicks were off on the night. If you look at the weekend’s games, the goalkicking percentage across all teams was 50%. But goalkicking is vital, especially in the beginning of the competition where there are a lot of penalties and teams don’t have their rhythm right. If you have a good goalkicker you can get momentum in a game quickly.
Ludeke did defend Fouché though, saying he needed to find his confidence again, but that he was far from finished. Ludeke said the team management still backed Fouché “100%”
“Louis had a fantastic Currie Cup in 2012. He was our Currie Cup player of the year back then. In 2013, he had two Super Rugby games and then he picked up an injury that kept him out for the whole year. There is nothing wrong with his ability, he is a quality flyhalf and we need him. He could still be the guy who does something special for us at a vital stage of the season. You can’t coach that sort of talent and he has what it takes.
“He came back from an injury perhaps too soon and I will take responsibility for that. Perhaps we should have been a bit more conservative in our approach, and managed his comeback better from our point of view - a knee operation, especially for a kicker, is a massive operation.
“We back him 100%, he is still in our system and we need him. If you ask how does he come back, well, if there is an injury then he will be back, and the Vodacom Cup is also there for him to get his form back.”
15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Grant Hattingh, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Jono Ross, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers
15. Chrysander Botha, 14. Deon van Rensburg, 13. JW Jonker , 12. Stefan Watermeyer, 11. Ruan Combrinck, 10. Marnitz Boshoff, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Warren Whiteley (captain), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Franco Mostert, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Robbie Coetzee, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Willie Wepener, 17. Jacques van Rooyen, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. MB Lusaseni , 20. Willie Britz, 21. Ross Cronjé, 22. Courtnall Skosan, 23. Coenie van Wyk