Bulls’ win not without cost

Injuries to two key players cause coach headache

Jesse Kriel, of the Bulls, and Lukhanyo Am, of the Sharks, during the Super Rugby match at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday
Jesse Kriel, of the Bulls, and Lukhanyo Am, of the Sharks, during the Super Rugby match at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday

Injuries to tight-five wrecking balls Lood de Jager and Liza Gqoboka took the gloss off the Bulls’ 39-33 Super Rugby victory over the Sharks at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on Saturday.

Coach John Mitchell confirmed the injuries might be serious and that he would have to consider contingencies outside the Bulls’ group.

“It is concerning. We’ll get them both X-rayed. We’ve got issues,” Mitchell said.

“We are currently looking at what we can loan‚ with the northern hemisphere South Africans finished and also some PRO14 teams finished. We are going to come up with a strategy in the next two weeks.”

De Jager’s Bok prospects next month may now also be in jeopardy.

Mitchell may have to consider roping in the Cheetahs’ Ox Nche as replacement for Gqoboka, who has a toe problem.

“It will be a setback but someone else will be ready‚” Mitchell said about De Jager’s pectoral muscle injury.

“It’s a shame‚ he has been in outstanding form. He looks like a good test player week after week. We have to wait for the X-ray but I don’t think it is going to be that good.”

Despite the injuries‚ Mitchell was happy with the day’s work against the Sharks.

He acknowledged‚ however‚ that the yellow card to Curwin Bosch helped get them onto the front foot.

The game’s three yellow cards impacted on proceedings and Mitchell was not convinced RG Snyman deserved time to repent in the sin bin.

“The game is getting a little bit tender if that is a yellow card. Unfortunately we had to deal with that‚” he said about the lock’s late shoulder charge.
Sound tactics‚ sturdy defence and a solid kicking game helped apply the squeeze on the Sharks. Mitchell stopped just short of labelling the

“If you stop their momentum then their options become less‚” he said.

“At the back they obviously have pace but their alignment is very singular and that is a lot easier to defend, in my view.

“So if you deal with the front door and you stop the offloading then you give yourself a chance to eat them up and force a skill error,” he said. Ultimately, though, Mitchell Sharks’ attack onedimensional. is pleased with how his team is growing.

“One of the things I’m enjoying in the character of the side is the maturity‚ and I guess the calmness that comes with it.

“We are able to reset and re-establish momentum. I think that is a really important part of growth.

“They were scoreboard-focused before my time but now it’s about being consistent in our detail and processes.

“The guys are getting better at dealing with the momentum slides and getting momentum back.”

Mitchell believes the conference honours are potentially within their reach. “It is in our hands‚” he said. “This conference is going to go down to the wire. You’ve got New Zealand teams‚ as well as our conference smashing each other over the next month. There is going to be a cost.

“We’ve had some costly injuries in this game. The Jaguares have done well on tour. They have probably been more consistent away than they’ve been at home. They are a different side.

“I studied them on Saturday morning in depth.

“I think I’ve got them worked out but it is going to take a fantastic mindset and attitude from us to go there,” Mitchell said. – TimesLIVE