Vodacom Blue Bulls hooker Gary Botha has admitted that Springbok call-ups have had a negative impact on their results.
The Bulls have had to do without Victor Matfield, Pedrie Wannenburg, Pierre Spies, Jacques Cronje, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Akona Ndungane and Wynand Olivier, for the majority of their Absa Currie Cup campaign.
Botha said this had had a disruptive influence on the Pretoria-based side who have already lost four matches this season and are facing a perilous final three games as they seek to secure a home semi-final.
“Having nearly half your players gone through Springbok call-ups is going to really hurt any side,” he told keo.co.za.
“If you look at the players we’re missing, they are the core of the team and they have been key personnel in our success in recent seasons.”
The Bulls have more players in the Springbok squad than any other Currie Cup side. But coach Pote Human still can’t take solace in the fact that he’ll be able to field all of them on Saturday.
Of the contingent, the availability of Victor Matfield, Pierre Spies, Fourie du Preez and Wynand Olivier will come under discussion this week, as Jake White seeks to rest some of the players who have played extensive roles in the Currie Cup.
Bryan Habana will definitely miss the Sharks game on Saturday through injury.
But despite the current adversity, Botha said he was encouraged by the efforts of the replacement players.
“We pride ourselves on our depth and this is not a situation that is new to us.
“In 2003, we lost a lot of players [to the Springboks World Cup squad] and those players who replaced them showed that they have what it takes to compete at Currie Cup level,” he said.
The Bulls then sacrificed eight players but still managed to win 21 of 25 matches, scoring 1052 points on their march to their 20th Currie Cup title.
“This season again the squad players have had to step up,” he said. “And as far as I’m concerned, they certainly have. ”
By Ryan Vrede