News in Brief
Bull set to remain at Loftus
The Crusaders' Isaac Ross has suffered a fresh setback in his bid for further international honours
© Getty Images
- Title-chasing Super 14 side the Bulls will remain at their Loftus Versfeld for the remainder of the regular season after fears over the state of the playing surface were allayed.
Reports this week suggested that the Bulls and their South African rivals the Cheetahs could be forced to vacate their grounds earlier than planned due to concerns over the pitches that will be used during the forthcoming Fifa World Cup that kicks off in the country on June 11.
Butana Komphela, chairman of the parliamentary sports' portfolio committee, will meet with officials from both sides on Tuesday to clarify the situation but played down suggestion that the teams had already been asked to move. "The questions we have are from our observations during our inspection 100 days before the start of the World Cup," he said. "At that time the Loftus pitch was not good at all. A report from a Fifa grass specialist said the Loftus and Bloemfontein pitches were not right. But after our inspection last week we found that the grass at Loftus is growing very well. We just want to find out what the teams' schedules are and when they will give over the stadiums to Fifa."
But Komphela has also hinted that he would welcome a move away from Loftus Versfeld. "We like the Bulls' plan to play in Soweto and perhaps they could play some more games there," he said. "I want to ask them if they genuinely feel they can play at Loftus on Saturday."
The Bulls, one of the favourites to reach the Super 14 play-offs, have three home games left in the regular season and have already had to make contingency plans should they qualify for a home semi-final and final, with those games set to be played at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto.
- Last year's All Blacks lock Isaac Ross has been left out of the Crusaders' 25-man Super 14 squad to tour Australia and South Africa. Also ruled out for the clash with Western Force on Friday are wingers Jared Payne (concussion) and Kade Poki (hamstring), while All Blacks hooker Corey Flynn (ankle) could potentially join the squad for their South African trip this weekend if he passes a fitness test on Saturday. All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter (hip) was passed fit to travel after sitting out Saturday's win over the Cheetahs.
Ross, 25, played eight Tests for the All Blacks last year but was omitted for the end-of-year tour to Japan and Europe and told by the selectors to bulk up in the off-season. He started four Super 14 matches for the Crusaders this year but missed selection for the 22 in the past three weeks and was sent back to club rugby as he slipped behind Brad Thorn, Chris Jack and youngster Sam Whitelock in the pecking order.
- Bulls lock Bakkies Botha is nearing a return to action with the Super 14 side having battled back to fitness from an Achilles injury. Team doctor Org Strauss told SuperSport.com, "The injury is fine. Bakkies has been training hard while we were away and has been doing a lot of running. He will join the training session again today and we will assess his fitness then. It's a bit early to say if he will back as early as this weekend."
- Injury has added further woe to the Highlanders' Super 14 campaign, with hooker Jason Macdonald ruled out of the rest of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
The southern franchise may have just sat out a bye week but a decision to release Macdonald and backup scrum-half Sean Romans to play club rugby over the weekend backfired, with Romans suffering a significant hamstring injury. Macdonald has played in all but one game this season, mostly off the bench behind Jason Rutledge, while Romans has made four appearances.
Better news for coach Glenn Moore ahead of Saturday's match against the Hurricanes is that fullback Israel Dagg is recovering well from a groin niggle and may play, according to the Otago Daily Times. Five-eighth Michael Hobbs could also return from a badly bruised thigh but first five-eighth Mathew Berquist (hamstring) and No 8 Nasi Manu (knee) remain in doubt.