Pretoria - The Bulls have a scrumhalf crisis ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby match against the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld.
Having had their their first-choice No 9 Fourie du Preez ruled out
for four weeks with a knee injury at the beginning of the week, the Bulls suffered a further blow when Francois Hougaard hurt his ankle in training on Tuesday.
The injury comes ahead of a match they have to win if they want to keep their play-off hopes alive. That hope already faded with the injury to Du Preez, who is considered the best scrumhalf in the world. To now lose Hougaard, who may well be the second best scrumhalf in the country, could be a serious dent to their play-off hopes.
It leaves the Bulls with only one fit scrumhalf in Dustin Jinka and they have scurried to find a worthy replacement option.
Jinka, in fact, is not even the Bulls' third-choice scrumhalf, with Ruan Snyman their preferred No 9 in the Vodacom Cup. However, Snyman is struggling with a sore groin and has already received medical advice to undergo surgery.
The situation may well prompt the Bulls into picking national under-20 scrumhalf Lohan Jacobs.
Whoever wears the No 9 jersey in the absence of Du Preez and Hougaard (expected to be out), is in for a duel with Cheetahs star Sarel Pretorius, who happens to be the tournament's leading try-scorer.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke was calm in spite of the apparent crisis.
"Let's first wait and see how serious Hougie's injury is. We have seen that ankle injuries often look a lot more serious than they really are. Fortunately it's not the same ankle that kept him from the field earlier," said Ludeke.
The name of Ruan Pienaar has to enter the equation, but Ludeke said that those talks had not resulted in anything.
Fortunately Ludeke does not have any other problems to confront in picking the team.
He will have to make a call between Danie Rossouw and Dewald Potgieter at No 7 flank.
Rossouw has been outstanding there in the last two games, but Potgieter has been part of a proven loose-trio with Deon Stegmann and Pierre Spies.
Potgieter did not start the last two games because of a sore ankle and Rossouw grabbed his opportunity.
"The players have all bought into the squad system and realise that certain players cannot start every game, so whatever I decide won't be a source of any problems," said Ludeke.
It looks as if Ludeke may also hand Akona Ndungane his second start this year. He started in Bjorn Basson's place against the Chiefs and performed very well.