Springbok lock Bakkies Botha lifted the mood of the Blue Bulls camp when he joined them for his first training session with the Currie Cup side this season on Monday.
JJ Harmse – Sport24
The Blue Bulls were not in the best of moods after not firing on all cylinders against Griquas on Saturday in spite of their big victory, and Botha’s workmanlike approach proved infectious.
It is with the idea of oiling the machine that coach Frans Ludeke has decided to take his strongest available squad to Rustenburg for Friday’s Currie Cup game against the Leopards.
“We want to be ready for the semi-final in two weeks’ time, so view Friday’s game as a last chance to make the necessary adjustments and get our rhythm right,” Ludeke explained.
This will mean that Botha starts Friday’s clash.
“Yes, Bakkies will definitely start. We hope to get 50 fiery minutes from him. It is his only chance to get ready for the semi-finals, so we’d like enough time to get him up for the challenge,” confirmed Ludeke.
Botha got a few weeks’ rest to recover from a troublesome knee injury and did not experience any discomfort in the Bulls’ lengthy lineout session.
Fourie du Preez will return as a substitute.
The world class scrumhalf trained under the watchful eye of team doctor Org Strauss and ran comfortably.
“Fourie will get playing time in the second half. He is still training with the doctor, but will definitely be ready. We don’t want to take any chances with such a valuable player,” said Ludeke.
Strauss also had good news for Ludeke about Bryan Habana.
The Bok wing did not injure a hamstring as had been feared, but only has an infected tendon in the muscle.
“He could play if necessary, but we decided to rather give him a rest. He will spend as little time as possible on his feet this week to rest the muscle,” said Strauss.
Ludeke also withdrew Pierre Spies after he tore a ligament in his middle finger on his right hand.
The finger was blue and swollen on Monday, but there is no chance of Spies not being fit for the semi-finals.
Gerhard van den Heever is likely to play in Habana’s place, while Pedrie Wannenburg is set to be the No 8 in place of Spies.
Ludeke may also consider Dewald Potgieter as No 8, in which case fetcher Jacques Burger and Deon Stegmann will play on the flanks.
Likely Bulls team: Zane Kirchner, Gerhard van den Heever, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Francois Hougaard, Morné Steyn, Heini Adams, Pedrie Wannenburg, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (capt), Bakkies Botha, Werner Kruger, Derick Kuün, Gurthrö Steenkamp.