Brenden Nel - SuperSport.com
Pretoria - There’s no use crying over spilt milk. Or so the saying goes.
And that’s exactly the attitude that Bulls coach John Mitchell has about the massive injury blows of Lood de Jager and Lizo Gqoboka that hit the team after their 39-33 win over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
Mitchell isn’t one to lament over injuries, after all they are part of the game, and while it is a blow to the team, the squad departed on Tuesday night for Buenos Aires and have to focus on a very important game against the Jaguares this coming Saturday.
“They were in good form but that is history, that is the reality so it has happened. It is finished, it is gone, it is in the past. You can’t focus on them not being here, you know?” Mitchell said when quizzed about the form both were in and how it would impact his side ahead.
Sadly, De Jager injury is severe and will rule him out for the rest of the year. Gqoboka will soon find out when he will undergo surgery on his toe, a freak injury that came while pushing in a scrum against the Sharks. Gqoboka said Tuesday he initially thought it was a boot that had torn but when he stood up couldn’t use his foot and he realised much more was wrong. The prop was in fine form and the injury setback – anywhere between four and six months - is a massive blow to his season.
Mitchell was philosophical about it all, saying the depth would need to come through for the Bulls.
“You never want to see a teammate suffer but unfortunately it is part of the trade. Ultimately at the end of the day you are tested in this competition by your depth so you can’t just rely on top players being available all the time. While you feel for your teammate who has got a key injury, you’ve also got to get on and now it is somebody else’s chance to contribute to the team. Ultimately at the end of the day it will come down to how everybody else has contributed to the team in some form of way and now there are new players who will be given chances to contribute to the team on the field,” he added.
While the Bulls were looking at perhaps bringing in a PRO14 player or two to fill the void - Ox Nche is one name that definitely comes to mind – they are mindful that the PRO14 season is over and players take a while to settle into a new team.
“We are looking at some people but at the end of the day I’m more than happy to continue the development of the young guys that we have at the club. It is their time to contribute to the team and to seize their opportunity. The way Lizo (Gqoboka) took his opportunity when we were without Pierre (Schoeman) and we have also been without Lood before in a challenging week coming back from a tour so it creates a different focus. It presents people like Jason (Jenkins) and RG (Snyman) to control the middle and then Stassie (Hendrik Stassen), who has already played against the Stormers – so he knows what he is walking into.”
Another option is to move Trevor Nyakane to loosehead – where he played his early part of his career – to fill the void.
“Definitely we can move Trevor to loosehead in the meantime. It is amazing how the loose forwards have been a real challenge with injuries, where some guys haven’t even been available from pre-season which you obviously don’t plan for. Locks, we have a lot of depth there but loosehead is being tested through injury and suspension, and so is tighthead,” Mitchell added.
Either way it’s a case of the show must go on for the Bulls. They would rather be making the trip to Buenos Aires with a full-strength squad, but that isn’t to be.
Those who are in the Argentinian capital this weekend know they have to step up and fill the void. And they have a job to do. That’s the least the coach will be expecting from them.
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