John Mitchell and his revolution at the Bulls has been hit with a pretty big reality check with just over a month to go before the start of the new Super Rugby campaign.
In their latest report, the franchise’s medical staff have confirmed that Springbok scrumhalf Rudy Paige won’t be available for until at least the end of February.
The wholehearted but underused halfback had “complained about a groin niggle after the Springboks’ European tour” last year, according to team doctor Herman Rossouw.
As a result, Paige had an operation earlier this month.
It seemed unlikely anyway that he would’ve featured in Mitchell’s first-choice starting line-up given that the New Zealander favours Ivan van Zyl.
In fact, the Bulls were reported to be willing to sell Paige back to the Lions but couldn’t agree on terms.
The problem now is that Van Zyl is also on the sidelines with a long-term injury.
And with another former Bok in Piet van Zyl having departed for London Irish in England, the Bulls have no senior scrumhalf that’s fit.
Mitchell will now probably be forced to select influential Tuks playmaker Andre Warner to partner either Handre Pollard or Marnitz Boshoff at halfback.
The 24-year-old is familiar with the Bulls’ mentor new coaching system, based heavily on personal statistics, but lost his Currie Cup place last year to Ivan van Zyl.
However, the bigger headache is who’ll sit on the bench.
Junior Springbok Embrose Papier is widely regarded as a future star but was largely stuck in age-group rugby last year.
Theo Maree, who is on loan from the Pumas, is also in the wider training group yet is also inexperienced.
Either way, it’s not a particularly envious position to be in, especially as the Bulls have embarked on more nifty game-plan.