Potgieter has the right dynamics
Seasoned loose forward Dewald Potgieter is the letter-perfect replacement for injured Bulls captain Pierre Spies.
The Bulls may have suffered a couple of crippling blows in recent weeks, but coach Frans Ludeke is confident they have the dept and dynamics to deal with the latest setbacks.
Springbok No.8 and first-choice captain Pierre Spies (who will undergo surgery on a torn bicep) has joined fellow Bok Arno Botha (ACL tear) on the list of Bulls loose forwards who will not appear on the playing field again this season.
However, in seasoned loose forward Dewald Potgieter they have the letter-perfect replacement as both captain and No.8 for Spies.
Potgieter will take charge for the first time this season and also shift to No.8 in place of Spies. Potgieter's namesake, Jacques Potgieter, returns to the loose trio at blindside flank for the injured Botha, where he will partner Deon Stegmann, who starts in his regular spot at openside.
Ludeke, speaking to this website in the build-up to the encounter with the Southern Kings in Pretoria on Saturday, felt that their long-term planning will ensure they can deal with the absence of quality players like Spies and Botha.
"Injuries are part of the game, you can't foresee them happen and they are never pleasant," the Bulls mentor said.
"I feel sorry for a guy like Pierre [Spies], who is not just the captain, but who started playing some good rugby - while also taking his leadership to another level.
"Then there is a player like Arno [Botha], but that is part of life.
"We do have the depth to cover [those injuries] and the guys who are coming in are excited about the opportunity and looking forward to the last phase of the competition."
However, it is Potgieter who will step into the spotlight.
Having made his Super Rugby debut in 2008, and with 70-odd caps to his credit, he has won two Super rugby titles and a Currie Cup with the Bulls.
He also showed his leadership credentials before - captaining the Emerging Boks to a draw against the 2009 British and Irish Lions, while leading the Blue Bulls during the 2012 Currie Cup season, when Spies also spent six months on the sidelines.
"That is exactly what you want [as a replacement], somebody who comes out of your leadership core in the team and is a senior player," Ludeke told this website.
"He is a player that understands the system, he has the respect of the players, understands the game, makes good calls on the field and can function under pressure."
The Bulls mentor pointed to a period during the Currie Cup competition last year, when the men from Pretoria were under pressure, when Potgieter (as captain) and Currie Cup coach Pine Pienaar turned it around.
"We took note of that," Ludeke said, adding: "We are very impressed with Dewald's leadership."
The other major change is the dynamics of your loose trio - with Potgieter moving to No.8.
However, Ludeke is confident this will not be an issue.
"It is important for players to understand their roles. Dewald [Potgieter], before he started playing at No.7, he was a seasoned No.8 - he understands the position, what is required of him in terms of how we play.
"Yes, there are other skills that are important, but there is no problem [at No.8].
"Jacques Potgieter simply slots in at a position he is familiar with [at blindside flank].
"Dewald simply needs to make a couple of minor adjustments to his mindset."
By Jan de Koning