Johannesburg - Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe’s hopes of making an early comeback from a knee injury were put on ice over the festive season as he suffered another injury in training this week.
According to the supersport.com website, Van der Merwe tore a pectoral muscle while doing dips in a gym session to regain his fitness along with his Vodacom Bulls teammates, and will be out of action for at least three months.
While the off-season will mean more recovery and rehabilitation for Van der Merwe, who was spotted at the Bulls’ sponsorship launch with new partners Isuzu yesterday sporting a sling, he is expected to be back in action by late January, meaning there is still a good chance he will be ready for the Bulls first game in next year’s Vodacom Super Rugby series.
The Bulls do have ample back-up among their youth brigade should Van der Merwe be ruled out for the opening game, but without Paul Willemse also there – he has taken up a big money offer at Grenoble – they will be keen for Van der Merwe to play.
While Victor Matfield and Van der Merwe were due to be the starting locks for the team next season, the Bulls also have promising youngsters Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie and Irne Herbst who can fill in.
Grant Hattingh is the designated back-up and had a good season in 2014, although he is also currently injured and will only return on 5 January to training.
Meanwhile the Bulls on Thursday replaced former sponsor Proline with Isuzu on a three year deal commencing next year, with the car manufacturer’s brand logo set to appear on the collar of the Bulls jersey for the next few years.
Blue Bulls Company (BBCo) chief executive Barend van Graan said the Isuzu sponsorship will give the union some traction as they go in search of silverware in the 2015 season.
"The soon to be launched 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season Bulls jersey will feature the iconic Isuzu logo. This is a natural partnership for our two brands as rugby and bakkies have been an integral part of the South African way of life for generations. The Isuzu KB is known for its toughness and durability and we are delighted to have Isuzu as the official vehicle partner to the Vodacom Bulls," said van Graan.
The sponsorship includes a financial injection which will assist the union to remain at the cutting-edge of the sport in South Africa as well as Isuzu KB bakkies to be used in the union’s day-to-day running of its rugby programmes.