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Battered Bulls stay positive

Not even the possibility of losing two key players to injury will force the Bulls to ditch their approach to “positive rugby”: when they face the Reds in their final Super 14 league match in Pretoria on Saturday.

The Bulls are reeling from the news that star scrum-half Fourie du Preez and powerful centre JP Nel could be sidelined – maybe even for a few weeks – after suffering injuries in the impressive 40-19 win over the Blues at the weekend.

The team’s medical staff confirmed on Saturday that Man of the Match and ace scrum-half Fourie du Preez suffered a right shoulder ligament injury.

It is suspected that it might be a Grade One tear and he is listed as “doubtful” for the team’s final game in the league stages – against the Reds at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, next Saturday.

Powerful centre JP Nel, another key component in the Bulls’ ever improving backline, suffered a quad and muscle injury on his right leg. He is listed as “definitely doubtful” for the encounter with Reds

Coach Heyneke Meyer described the injury setbacks as “devastating”, but added that he is holding out hope that one or both could be cleared.

However, even if they are ruled out it will not see the Bulls discard the approach that helped them score 16 tries (while conceding just four) in the last three weeks.

Not even the fact that they are facing the struggling Reds, a team rooted at the bottom of the table, will force the Bulls to discard their structures and approach.

“I told them straight after the game [against the Blues last Friday] what our goals are,” Meyer said when asked how his team would approach the encounter with the Reds.

“The players know me and I’ve told them before: ‘A champion is not a champion because he wins something. Winning something is the result of being a champion, it is part of setting your goals and structures and how you conduct yourself off the field as well,” Meyer told this website.

He made it clear that his team will not buy into the whole play-off scenario, in which the Bulls may need to beat the Reds by a set number of points to move ahead of the Blues on the standings.

“People have already said we have the advantage that we will know all the permutations [the Bulls play in the last game of the weekend].

“I said if we have to wait till Saturday to decide what we should score it is far too late.

“I told the players after the game [against the Blues] what I expect of them and how many points I want from the game.”

He also said his team sets their own standards and won’t be distracted by the poor form of the Reds this year.

“The thing we have done very well in the past and which we will build on is that in past we paid too much attention to the opposition and we worried too much.

“However, if we are focussed 100 percent on the day, do every little thing 100 percent – every little detail, if we focus on every play, minute by minute, phase to phase – if we do that correctly, victory will be the result.

“If you do everything right and you play to your potential and you still don’t win, then you know you’ve been beaten by a better team.
“Our goal the past few weeks have been to not worry too much about the opposition. Yes, we respect the opposition and we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.

“However, we have to focus on our own strengths and enforce those, especially if you play at home. There are simply no weak teams in this competition.

“That’s why, just as we did for the past few weeks, we will be positive and go out to score tries. We will be positive regardless of what pressure there is and what the permutations are. We want to go out and play good, positive rugby in front of our home crowd.”

Meyer admitted the injury concerns hovering over Du Preez and Nel could be costly blows.

“Fourie du Preez has played brilliant rugby. Look how our backs have come along the past month. We have scored 16 tries to four in the last three weeks. He is central to that. He know exactly how things work, on attack and defence, especially with his great boot.

“It will make a huge difference if he can’t play for the next few weeks.

“JP Nel also, he and Johan Roets are the unsung heroes [of the victory over the Blues]. He [Nel] scored great tries, he runs great lines and his defence is solid. He has never really been given the credit for the quality player that he is,” Meyer said.

The coach felt that the lack of depth at scrum-half and outside centre is what is most concerning.

“Everybody has injuries. We lost Bakkies [Botha] just before the game [against the Blues] and Danie [Rossouw] fitted in well.

“However, certain players are very difficult to replace, especially if you don’t have depth.

“Heini Adams should come in [at scrum-half] and he’s done well, but Fourie [du Preez] is a world class player. There’s certain players you don’t replace easily and he’s one of them.

“It is not just because of the quality of his game, but along with Victor [Matfield] he is a crucial part of the leadership and he makes a lot of the calls, in the backline and in the game plan.

“Also the strategic calls he makes during the game makes it a bigger setback.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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