It was mostly good news in the Bulls camp on Monday regarding injuries following their warm-up match against the Lions in Windhoek over the weekend, but they were waiting anxiously for an X-ray report on Bryan Habana's ribs. The star winger was injured in the Bulls' last warm-up match before the Super 14 competition starts.
The Bulls' chances of defending their Super 14 rugby title suffered a blow Monday when inside centre Wayne Julies was ruled out of the competition with a knee injury. Team doctor Tommie Smook, who will stay on with the Bulls until the end of the Super 14, on Monday said Julies had to undergo an operation and will not be able to play for at least six months.
The early stages of the 2008 Super 14 competition could be especially challenging for the five South African franchises -- three of the teams have new coaches, and the training of all five has been affected to various degrees by the resting of their Springboks after the United Kingdom tour.
South Africa captain John Smit and star wing Bryan Habana are among nine members of the Springboks' victorious World Cup final starting XV named to face Wales in Saturday's one-off rugby union international at the Millennium Stadium. Although several players are missing from the two-match tour, the side still contains plenty of experienced campaigners.
Three new signings at fullback and the return of Springboks Chiliboy Ralepelle and Pierre Spies after a layoff are the outstanding features of the Bulls' Super 14 training squad that was announced on Wednesday. The Bulls have also named six locks in their search to fill the huge boots of this year's captain, Victor Matfield.
The Springbok rugby selectors, who on Tuesday sat down to pick the side for the two-match tour of Wales and England later this month, will not have included loose forward Bob Skinstad in the touring team. The 50th Springbok captain has retired with immediate effect. It is unlikely that Skinstad will be replaced for the short tour.
Jake White's Springboks were due to leave for the World Cup in France later on Monday in an upbeat mood in stark contrast to the disastrous build-up to the last edition in Australia. In 2003 there was general discontent in Rudolf Straeuli's camp after players were sent on the infamous military-style Kamp Staaldraad, while claims of racism rocked the squad.
Former South African World Cup-winning flyhalf Joel Stransky is backing the three southern-hemisphere powers as well as hosts France to have the biggest impact at this year's Rugby World Cup, which kicks off on September 7. "If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on South Africa," he said.