Flip's punch: 'It is a pity'
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 12:25
We need to regroup
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke described the loss of captain Flip van der Merwe are a huge loss and said it was "a pity" the lock lost his cool.
A SANZAR judicial hearing on Wednesday found Van der Merwe guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (a): Punching or striking. Van der Merwe was suspended for three weeks, up to and including Sunday, May 11.
This follows after he was cited for an incident in the 75th minute of the Bulls' loss to the Waratahs last week, with the judicial officer ruling the Springbok lock had punched Waratahs prop Paddy Ryan in a collapsed scrum.
"Obviously that is a big blow," Ludeke said in a teleconference from the team's base in Perth - where they are preparing for the final match of their Australasian tour, against the Western Force on Saturday.
He added the loss also means they are without another leader and a senior player.
"We never want stuff like that, but things like that happens," the Bulls coach said.
"Looking at the incident, it is a pity it happened.
"However, we need to regroup."
Paul Willemse comes into the starting line-up, where he will partner Victor Matfield in the second row - with the World Cup-winning Bok lock, Matfield, taking over the captaincy from Van der Merwe.
Ludeke said the change at hooker - where Bongi Mbonambi gets his first start and one-time Bok Bandise Maku coming onto the bench - is twofold.
"Bongi [Mbonambi] and Bandi [Bandise Maku] come in as Callie [Visagie] has a little bit of a back strain," he said, adding: "It is also partially rotation.
"Bongi has been playing well as an impact player the last few weeks. We now back him in the starting position."
There are three changes among the backs. Jurgen Visser has recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the Waratahs clash shortly before kick-off last week and slots in at fullback, where he replaces Ulrich Beyers. Francois Hougaard moves back to the base of the scrum, following the knee-injury sustained by Piet van Zyl. The fit-again veteran Bok Akona Ndungane returns to his regular spot on the wing.
"It is great to have Akona back on the wing," the coach said, adding: "He also brings a lot of experience."
Ludeke also re-jigged his bench, where Wimpie van der Walt will get a first run in Bulls colours if he takes to the field.
"It will be great to have him come on in the last 20 minutes and maybe make an impact at the breakdown," Ludeke said, adding that the coaching had a "long discussion" on Monday this week, about the loose forward combination.
However, they opted to go with the established trio of Grant Hattingh (at No.8), Jacques du Plessis and Jono Ross on the flanks.
By Jan de Koning
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