Something old, something blue for the Bulls
SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW 2020 – TEAM BY TEAM: Something borrowed, something blue, something old and very little new…
That pretty much sums up the current affairs at the Bulls’ headquarters.
Good thing is, unlike all the other South African Super Rugby franchises, the Bulls do not have to deal with the new coaching factor.
The team again have trusted head coach Pote Human to lead them during the 2020 season, with the main aim being to restore the three-time Super Rugby champions to their glory days.
Human took over the role as head coach in January 2019 and managed to silence his doubters.
In his first season, he guided the Bulls to the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time since 2013. Their campaign was halted in the quarterfinals, courtesy of a 28-35 defeat to the Hurricanes.
A surprise to many, but surely a testament to Human’s coaching prowess.
The 60-year-old introduced a sense of calmness and structure, following the John Mitchell and Nollis Marais fiasco in 2018.
Unfortunately for Human, this season’s challenge will be how to deal with the exodus of his senior players.
All teams have to deal with player’ transfers – especially after a World Cup year.
However, this transfer window has put the Bulls’ restoration plan two steps back.
The Bulls have to hit the reset button again – following the departures of Jesse Kriel (Eagles, Japan), Lodewyk de Jager (Sale, England), Rudolph Snyman (Heat, Japan), Duane Vermeulen (Spears, Japan), Schalk Brits to retirement and the darling of Loftus Handre Pollard has also swapped the Bulls for Montpellier in France.
The collective loss of these players has certainly been a massive blow and replacing these world-class players will not be an easy task.
In their efforts to fill the void, new CEO Alfons Meyer has roped in Morne Steyn, Juandre Kruger, former Lions lock Andries Ferreira and Josh Strauss.
Experience is certainly not a factor when it comes to new acquisitions.
However, given Bulls’ heavy reliance on their flyhalf, one concern for this side will be who will take the No.10 jersey?
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Pollard was on one of South Africa’s most valuable players in their World Cup campaign last year, scoring 69 points at the showpiece in Japan.
He also played a major part in helping his franchise book a Super Rugby quarterfinal spot.
Pollard’s replacement, the 34-year-old Steyn, represented the Bulls in 124 matches between 2008 and 2013 and also played 66 Tests for the Springboks between 2009 and 2016.
Indeed, Steyn is a legend at Loftus. He was part of the squad that won Super Rugby titles in 2009 and 2010. Steyn still holds the Super Rugby record for most point scored by a player in a season.
Whether Steyn can or will adapt to the highly competitive Southern Hemisphere tournament after his six-year spell in France, is to be seen.
If not, the Bulls will have to rely on their youthful option Manie Libbok. The alternatives are Pumas loan player Chris Smith and Baby Bok David Coetzer, signed from Western Province.
Make no mistake the 22-year-old Libbok has loads of talent. He has proven himself as a Junior Springbok and it’s certainly about time, he takes this opportunity to make the No.10 jersey his own.
But whether the youngster could establish himself as the Bulls player maker this season only time will tell.
Bulls second row option is another a major concern.
Known for having the legendary pair Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, the Pretoria side now sits with Kruger, Eli Snyman and Ferreira. Kruger’s presence is without a doubt very valuable and will certainly be a huge help to Snyman and Ferreria.
Aside from the Lions, it’s clear that the Bulls have probably been dealt with one of the harshest hands in South Africa.
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South African Conference Placing: third
Player of the Year: Burger Odendaal
Rookie of the Year: Muller Uys
Super Rugby Placing: Outside the top 10
In: Juandré Kruger (Toulon), Abongile Nonkontwana (Cheetahs), Josh Strauss (Sale Sharks), Morné Steyn (Stade Français), Andries Ferreira (Hurricanes).
Out: Conraad van Vuuren (Sunwolves), Schalk Brits (retired), Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks), Jason Jenkins (Toyata Verblitz), RG Snyman (Honda Heat), Hendré Stassen (Stade Francias), Thembelani Bholi (Southern Kings), Jannes Kirsten (Exeter Chiefs), Paul Schoeman (Honda Heat), Roelof Smit (Lions), Hanro Liebenberg (Leicester Tigers), Duane Vermeulen (Kubota Spears), André Warner (Lions), Handré Pollard (Montpellier), JT Jackson (Southern Kings), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Travis Ismaiel (Harlequins), Duncan Matthews (Lions).
Squad (provisional): Forwards: Matthys Basson, Lizo Gqoboka, Wiehahn Herbst, Madot Mabokela, Simphiwe Matanzima, Nqoba Mxoli, Trevor Nyakane, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Johan Grobbelaar, Edgar Marutlulle, Jaco Visagie, Corniel Els, Eli Snyman, Juandré Kruger, Tim Agaba, Nick de Jager, Carel du Preez, Ruan Steenkamp, Muller Uys, Marco van Staden, Abongile Nonkontwana, Josh Strauss, Jano Venter, Andries Ferreira
Backs: Theo Maree, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Marnitz Boshoff, Manie Libbok, Morné Steyn, Stedman Gans, Burger Odendaal, Dylan Sage, Cornal Hendricks, Johnny Kôtze, Rosko Specman, Jade Stighling, Warrick Gelant, Divan Rossouw
Best Finish: Super Rugby Champions in 2007, 2009 and 2010
Worst finish: Ninth in 2016 (Fourth in the South African conference)