Bulls lose Hattingh for five weeks
Johannesburg - The Vodacom Bulls will need to keep the faith in their youth brigade of locks after the news that Grant Hattingh has been ruled out for five weeks with a groin strain.
According to SuperSport.com, Hattingh, who pulled out of the Bulls team a fortnight ago with the strain before their trip to Singapore, has been on the sidelines ever since and finally underwent surgery on Saturday morning to correct the injury.
But the move comes at a cost, with the experienced former Maties and Lions lock now sidelined, and missing the Bulls Antipodean tour later this month, with Hattingh likely to rejoin the team when they return from Australia next month.
This means the Bulls will soldier on with their young locks - RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins - both of whom have looked impressive in their maiden Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The two youngsters - Snyman is 21 while Jenkins is still just 20 - have a dozen Super Rugby caps between them, but delivered a performance again on Saturday in the win over the Southern Kings that would have made the new Springbok coach sit up and notice.
While it may be a bit early to compare them with the Stormers duo of Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit, or SA Rugby player of the year Lood de Jager, the duo will keep on knocking on the door and if they continue to perform in the same way they have in the past few weeks, national honours will definitely be in their future.
The Bulls will also be happy with the fact that their Currie Cup captain Lappies Labuschagne made a powerful return from injury and could easily have been made man of the match in the win over the Kings, such was his impact.
Labuschagne's return, coupled with the return of Deon Stegmann, means the Bulls are well stocked at loose forward ahead of the tour, allowing new recruit Renaldo Bothma to ease into his role with the team.
While Bothma may return to training later this week, the former Sharks No8 and Namibian international is likely to join the Super Rugby side only at the end of the month when they return from Australia, and will get over his foot injury at Currie cup level first to ease back into form.
The Bulls see a key role for Bothma to get them over the advantage line, but considering the injury it is prudent to get him back to full fitness first before throwing him into the deep end.
While the Reds are the first priority this week and will be dangerously high on confidence following their shock win over the Highlanders on the weekend, the Bulls will also have one eye on their tour, with the squad to travel to be named later this week.
SP Marais' performance against the Kings will have cemented him a spot in the line-up while Dries Swanepoel and Dan Kriel will probably have to fight it out for a tour spot, with Kriel's versatility his advantage.
Rudy Paige will return to the starting line-up this week as well after a rest and an eye will be kept on Lizo Gcoboka, who was struggling with a hand ligament injury as well.
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