Time for Bulls fruit to ripen

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Bulls, Original Content, Super Rugby on 16 Dec 2013 at 10:43
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

Looking at the reduced Super Rugby squad named by Bulls coach Frans Ludeke late last week, one starts to see why they have opted for a predominantly green theme for their away playing strip.

The Blue Bulls union, after all, has drawn criticism from a number of quarters over its policy of mass junior player recruitment, often contracting two or three times as many promising under 19s as it needs to ensure a strong player base. The chickens of that discontent (to coin an awful phrase) appear to be coming home to roost, though, with the cash spent on that youth program understood to have seriously undermined pay structures in the senior ranks. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the money used to pay 100 junior players R5 000 a month not only adds up pretty quickly, but also has to come from somewhere. It turns out that in order to pay their junior “Peter” (or I guess more likely “Pieter”) the Bulls have opted to rob the “Paul” that represents their senior player corps.

Hardly surprising, then, that so many of their seasoned Boks opted to leave this year, leaving them with a squad somewhat lacking in greybeards.

Not that this needs to be a bad thing, of course, provided that the “banked capital” of three Super Rugby titles won by that stalwart core of players buys them interest in the form of a little spectator patience. After all, the Bulls certainly have a fair few juniors to fall back on and with most having been through a pretty rigorous and competitive screening process over the last two or three years, there should be very little doubt that they have retained the best of what was a pretty bloody good bunch to start with.

The time is right, in other words, for the Bulls to reap the rewards of the often ridiculous lengths they have gone to to secure and retain the services of the likes of Arno Botha, Jan Serfontein, Handre Pollard, William Small-Smith and Jacques du Plessis.

Those expecting a strong showing from the Bulls in 2014, though, are likely to be disappointed. They’ve managed to name a reasonable pack of forwards, thanks in no small part to an influx of former Kings players, but that unit lacks genuine star quality, with Botha and du Plessis joining Pierre Spies as the only real “x-factor” players. Tight forward remains a sticking point, with too many of the props that have failed the Bulls in the past retained, while their second row contingent is notably devoid of line-out specialists.

It’s perhaps at halfback, though, where the side will struggle most. Piet van Zyl – the only big-name addition to the squad – comes in to complement the hot-and-cold Francois Hougaard at scrumhalf, but with the uninspiring Louis Fouche and the green-as-a-new-leaf Handre Pollard as the only flyhalves, it’s hard to see the sort of Morne Steyn-inspired game that brought the Bulls their last three trophies replicated with any measure of success in 2014.

Bulls squad:

Props: Morne Mellett, Dean Greyling, Frik Kirsten, Werner Kruger, Marcel van der Merwe.
Hookers: Callie Visagie, Bandise Maku, Bongi Mbonambi.
Locks: Flip van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Grant Hattingh, David Bulbring.
Loose forwards: Deon Stegman, Wiaan Liebenberg, Arno Botha, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Jono Ross.
Scrumhalves: Francois Hougaard, Piet van Zyl, Rudy Paige.
Flyhalves: Louis Fouche, Handre Pollard.
Midfield: Jan Serfontein, Waylon Murray, JJ Engelbrecht, William Small-Smith.
Outside backs: Bjorn Basson, Akona Ndungane, Sampie Mastriet, Travis Ismaiel, Jurgen Visser, Jesse Kriel, Clayton Blommetjies.
Utility backs: Ryan Nell, Ulrich Beyers.


  • Spies and X -factor in the same sentance,Rob you need a holiday

  • Comment 1, posted at 16.12.13 11:12:23 by benji Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @benji (Comment 1) : giving him the benefit of the doubt here… slim pickings 🙂

  • Comment 2, posted at 16.12.13 11:28:10 by robdylan Reply
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  • @benji (Comment 1) : You stole my line :mrgreen:

  • Comment 3, posted at 16.12.13 12:33:02 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 3) : whose line is it anyway?

  • Comment 4, posted at 16.12.13 12:43:22 by robdylan Reply
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  • Their Back Three also look soft and suspect under any high stuff, how the wheel turns. Your probably going to see Hougaard get shifted back to the wing to add something there. If anything the Lions have a more settled side and we may see the Bulls picking up the scraps down at the bottom. if they incure any injuries they are seriously stretched. BAD TIMES

  • Comment 5, posted at 16.12.13 13:05:11 by The Duke Reply

    The Duke
  • What happened to Victor and Liefling coming back in 2014?

  • Comment 6, posted at 16.12.13 13:05:59 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    West Indies Cricket Board
  • who knows…maybe a figment of their imagination.

  • Comment 7, posted at 16.12.13 13:10:15 by The Duke Reply

    The Duke
  • Poor to see that Ludeke still thinks Jacques du Plessis is a flanker when it is clear he is a lock.

    Strange that Dries Swanepoel and Rohan Janse v/Rensburg have not been included in the squad…….both are better investments than Murray and Small-Smith

  • Comment 8, posted at 16.12.13 14:34:10 by Saffex Reply

  • Man, that squad makes for entertaining reading. Truly, ’tis the season to be merry! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 9, posted at 17.12.13 07:38:23 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • A bulls article……xmas has come early!!!

  • Comment 10, posted at 17.12.13 09:22:49 by KingsArmy Reply

  • Just happy the two old guys has not made it!!

  • Comment 11, posted at 17.12.13 09:25:08 by KingsArmy Reply

  • Yeah halfback is gonna be a weakness. The young van zyl looks good, but hougaard just like spies, has never reach their potential. Rudy page are even slower behind the deck than ruan pienaar! With steyn playing 80min there’s no 10 with any experience. With serfontein green himself there’s no one to guide the next flyhalf. 2014 is gonna be a big learning curve for the 9;10;12 of bulls

  • Comment 12, posted at 17.12.13 09:37:23 by KingsArmy Reply

  • There’s no real senior players to talk off, but they do have some really good youngsters. Willemse in the nr4 jersey looks good. A botha looks really good. Got some exciting centers. With zane gone there’s some more running in their back three, visser, basson, maybe hougaard, ismail is a biggish wing, kriel[sharks] is full of running and r nell I think is a sevens player at 1,92m and 97kg. 2014 is hopefully about one step backwards to give two steps forward. I know u sharks supporters would hate that……lol

  • Comment 13, posted at 17.12.13 09:55:37 by KingsArmy Reply

  • Look im not exactly a Bulls supporter but they do have a good young team. Yes they may not win tropheys next year but if management can put plans in place to get these youngsters accustomed to a certain game plan and gain experience then in a a couple years they will again have a very experienced side. These guys arent clowns- most have represented SA at various levels. So yes they may struggle next year but I def wont count on 5points at Loftus thats for sure.

  • Comment 14, posted at 17.12.13 10:06:52 by SheldonK Reply

  • This isn’t smart. I now believe the rumours of dissent among some coaches. No tested flyhalf or number 5 lock. The schedule is a better than this year, but I agree, I am still a fan, but it will be a long year.

    Best would have been get an old hand at 10 and 5 – even if for one season only to bring some experience where it matters in the team.

    Really strange – why persist with Paige, Hattingh and du Plessis if you know they didn’t come close to making it in the Currie cup and you know there are better players around, and now you want to select them for S15? It makes no sense. 😕

  • Comment 15, posted at 17.12.13 12:30:46 by Blue Centurion Reply

    Blue Centurion
  • @Blue Centurion (Comment 15) : So the 10 spot and 5 spot is thin…..are they keeping liefling and matfield as an “ace” up their sleeve?

  • Comment 16, posted at 17.12.13 12:33:33 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @Blue Centurion (Comment 15) : give du Plessis a chance – still very young. But for goodness sake, play him at 5-lock, not flank!

  • Comment 17, posted at 17.12.13 13:22:22 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 17) : My concern with DuPlessis is that he has probably relied on his size a lot in his career and as a result his techniques are probably lacking a bit when it comes to scrumming, rucking , passing etc. And at senior level he wont be able to just rely on his size so hopefully the Bulls have been working on his technique or like Jacques Potgieter he will be off to Japan.

  • Comment 18, posted at 17.12.13 13:42:15 by SheldonK Reply

  • This may have been posted before but when is the Sharks new jersey going to make an appearance?

  • Comment 19, posted at 17.12.13 14:40:48 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt
  • @John Galt (Comment 19) : was going to be in time for xmas, but now only early 2014 for some reason

  • Comment 20, posted at 17.12.13 16:14:03 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    West Indies Cricket Board
  • Rest assured, it will be ready by mid February.

  • Comment 21, posted at 17.12.13 16:56:41 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @SheldonK (Comment 18) : Don’t think we must worry to much about j du plessis, time will tell where he should play. Remember d rossouw played 8th man when he started, and then became a great utility player.

  • Comment 22, posted at 17.12.13 20:34:12 by KingsArmy Reply

  • @KingsArmy (Comment 22) : Yeh look for sure, I just think he has so many good attributes to be a top quality lock. He wont be a Bok loose forward but he could be a world class lock.

  • Comment 23, posted at 18.12.13 08:02:40 by SheldonK Reply

  • @Blue Centurion (Comment 15) : Yeah it could have been easier to get some old hands for certain spots, but maybe its time for coaches to do some coaching too….

  • Comment 24, posted at 18.12.13 09:35:49 by KingsArmy Reply

  • @Blue Centurion (Comment 15) : Bullring got some potential in lineouts, but are quite in the loose. Hatting is the other way around. Maybe they keep flip at 5 and play the young willemse at 4…..

  • Comment 25, posted at 18.12.13 09:42:16 by KingsArmy Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 23) : Think du plessis might play more vodacom cup than s15 this year. Botha and spies will probably play 80min with steggman getting subt. There’s still ross aswell. Its gonna be a long year for them, but these youngsters are gonna learn more from playing and losing than sitting on the bench

  • Comment 26, posted at 18.12.13 09:50:15 by KingsArmy Reply

  • @KingsArmy (Comment 26) : sorry to say, but that Ross is NOT going to cut it at Super Rugby level.

  • Comment 27, posted at 18.12.13 09:51:20 by robdylan Reply
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  • Gonna be interesting to see what strms to with their looseforward and center combinations. HM wants to see more of kolisi at openside, but with d fourie there….; de allende looked really good at 12 this year and deserve more games there, but they still got two other bok centers that earn to much money to sit on the bench….

  • Comment 28, posted at 18.12.13 09:57:25 by KingsArmy Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 27) : Yeh have to agree with you Rob, dont think he is even CC level. The Bulls do have some quality young loose forwards, but all depends on what type of game they want to play. DuPlessis, Willemse and Flip Van Der Merwe could be 3 good locking options for them with Bulbring there for cover.

  • Comment 29, posted at 18.12.13 10:16:19 by SheldonK Reply

  • @KingsArmy (Comment 28) : Deon Fourie must play loosie, but with Vermuelen, Burger and Kolisi someone has to lose out – rotation should keep them fresh though. As for centre, If Frans Steyn is fit i think HM will pick him at 12 with JDV at 13 so De Ellende and JDV combo at Stormers wont be a bad thing. I think DeJong should move to wing- he has the pace and isnt the best defensively at centre but at wing he could be more comfortable.

  • Comment 30, posted at 18.12.13 10:20:05 by SheldonK Reply

  • Yeah don’t think ross was good in cc, but don’t want to judge any player too early. U shark fans love steyn, but jdv just had probably his best year. Gonna be a big call to move the bok captain. Jvd has never been that impressive at 13….,first steyn is gonna have to come through 2014 without an injury.

  • Comment 31, posted at 18.12.13 16:50:30 by KingsArmy Reply


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