2018 Super Rugby Squads: The Bulls
The Bulls are one of those typically South African teams. They promise much, but mostly fail to deliver. With the enormous depth of resources within the franchise and host province, the Bulls should be perennial contenders for Super Rugby honours, yet they always seem to be slugging it out for the wooden spoon.
Perhaps part of the problem has been a series of unimaginative, safety first oriented, coaches? Some hoped the arrival of Nollis Marais signalled an end to the archaic crashball style of Bulls’ rugby that guaranteed a good sleep for insomniacs. He tried hard, but it was not to be. Rumours have it that player-power asserted itself and that Marais found himself at odds with a number of the senior players, who did not buy into his somewhat gentlemanly style.
The arrival of John Mitchell signals a whole new way of doing things. Perhaps the very first thing to be mentioned is Mitchell’s strict disciplinarian approach to the game. He insists on team and squad discipline, with a measured approach to every practice and every game.
One of the finest technicians in the game of rugby, Mitchell has something of a human relations problem. When he was All Black coach, he ran into relationship problems with the players in his squad. It cost him his job. History repeated itself at the Force. And then it all happened again with the Lions in South Africa.
Will he be able to get through to the Bulls? Will he capture their hearts and minds?
History does suggest that he is the right man for the job in Pretoria. The Bulls somehow always perform best under a strict disciplinarian.
Mitchell has certainly signalled his intentions. He has disposed of, or lost, the services of the likes of Rudy Paige, Jacobie Adriaanse, Arno Botha, Renaldo Bothma, Jan Serfontein, Piet van Zyl, and even Tian Schoeman. (It is interesting to note that all of these players are of the crashball specialist variety. Perhaps it is a clearing of the decks?)
In come some runners like Tim Agaba, Frans van Wyk, Jano Venter, and Thembi Boli.
I do think that the Bulls are a little thin in the halfbacks. If Handre Pollard is injured, and he has shown something of a predilection for injury breaks, they have to fall back on Francois Brummer and Marnitz Boshoff, who are not known for sparkling rugby.
And their scrumhalves are very very light on experience and game time in the bigger leagues. Ivan van Zyl, Andre Warner and Embrose Papier might all be exciting prospects, but are they tough enough for Super Rugby?
The Bulls 2018 Super Rugby Squad:
Backs: Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Travis Ismaiel, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling, Divan Rossouw, Burger Odendaal, JT Jackson, Francois Brummer, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, Handre Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Manie Libbok, Ivan van Zyl, Andre Warner, Embrose Papier.
Forwards: Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Hendre Stassen, Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten, Nic de Jager, Tim Agaba, Jason Jenkins, Ruben van Heerden, Rudolph Snyman, Lodewyk de Jager, Aston Fortuin, Pierre Schoeman, Conraad van Vuuren, Frans van Wyk, Matthys Basson, Lizo Gqoboka, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Visagie, Adriaan Strauss, Edgar Marutlulle.
Tim Agaba (SA Sevens)
Marnitz Boshoff (Connacht)
Thembelani Boli (Kings)
Dayan van der Westhuizen (Kings)
Frans van Wyk (Stormers)
Jano Venter (Lions)
Jacobie Adriaanse (Lions)
Arno Botha (London Irish)
Renaldo Bothma (Harlequins)
Martin Dryer (Kings)
Kefentse Mahlo (released)
Sibahle Maxwane (released )
Luther Obi (Cheetahs)
Marnus Schoeman (Pumas)
Tian Schoeman (Bordeaux)
Jan Serfontein (Montpellier)
Piet van Zyl (London Irish)