Lood de Jager’s unexpectedly long-term shoulder injury has spooked Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus enough to plead with the Super Rugby franchises to give national players proper breather during the campaign.
But Bulls mentor Pote Human isn’t going to worry about such requests until Saturday’s derby against the Sharks at Loftus is done and dusted.
“It’s a difficult issue,” he said on Wednesday.
“Our planning was that we wanted to get the first four games of the season out of the way. We have a bye next week and then we’ll see how we can accommodate some rest for guys like Handre Pollard, Schalk Brits and Duane Vermeulen.”
At least there isn’t a lack of communication on the matter, with Erasmus having spoken personally to all the franchise coaches to emphasise the importance of player management.
It becomes a particularly thorny issue given that South African derbies tend to be overly physical and increase the risk of injury.
“We do have an agreement with Rassie and SA Rugby. It’s a long road to the tournament. We’ll manage them wherever possible. We have to manage them,” said Human.
Pollard’s case in particular is a sticky one as he was installed as the full-time stand-in captain last week after De Jager’s absence was confirmed.
That would suggest it’s more difficult to rest him during the campaign.
The influential flyhalf though has much faith in the leaders around him.
“It’s not an extra weight I have to carry,” said Pollard.
“We still have a great group of leaders around. It’s always been about a group dynamic. It was never about just Lood or I making big calls. It’s a collective effort. We’ll keep on doing it that way.”
Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks, Jesse Kriel, Dylan Sage, Rosko Specman, Handre Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen, Tim Agaba, Jannes Kirsten, Jason Jenkins, Hanro Liebenberg, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Corniel Els, Simphiwe Matanzima, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Thembelani Bholi, Paul Schoeman, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, Divan Rossouw.