Rainbow Cup

How Jake White's Bulls are driving alignment between professional and club structures

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Jake White with some of the Pretoria club coaches. (Supplied)
Jake White with some of the Pretoria club coaches. (Supplied)
  • The Bulls' team sheet for this weekend's meeting with the Lions had a retro feel to it - clubs attached to every player's name.
  • It turns out that it's the latest initiative for the union's drive towards integrating their professional and amateur structures, with every player assigned to a club.
  • Fringe players will actively participate in the Carlton Cup and be engaged in other quirky customs like wearing club socks to a training session every week.

The Bulls' team sheet for Saturday's Rainbow Cup SA meeting with the Lions at Loftus had a distinctly retro feel to it after being distributed on Friday.

Attached to every name was an associated club: Morne Steyn and Tuine; Lizo Gqoboka and Naka Bulls; Nizaam Carr and Centurion.

At first glance, it seemed to be ceremonial, a reminder that SA Rugby's constitution dictates that no player can represent a union's senior side without having an amateur outfit.

However, it turns out that it's the latest initiative in the Bulls' concerted drive to actively align its professional structures with its pipeline, one of the platforms of current president, Willem Strauss.

Teams:

Bulls

15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Nizaam Carr (captain), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 David Kriel

Lions

15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vince Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Sibusiso Sangweni, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 EW Viljoen

"We've allocated all our professional players to a club," revealed Jake White, the Bulls' director of rugby.

"Not all of them are going to play for the clubs, obviously. A guy like Duane Vermeulen is highly unlikely to actually get on the field. But the idea with him and others such as Trevor Nyakane and Morne Steyn is to let the relevant clubs use them in terms of their brands, for promoting fundraisers like a men's evening or golf day."

This isn't exactly a new idea the World Cup-winning former Springbok coach has come up with as he organised a similar arrangement during his time in Australia as Brumbies mentor.

"I did it at the Brumbies. I believe it's important for the younger guys to be associated with a club," he said.

"I want them to experience and understand what it's like to be a member of a club."

And it's the more junior and fringe players who'll be actively sent to go and perform in the Carlton Cup if they aren't involved with the Bulls on a given weekend.

Not only would that add much-needed class to Pretoria's already vibrant club scene, it keeps the players match fit.

"If the players don't get picked to play a relevant weekend, they'll play club rugby. It obviously won't be every Springbok, but generally most of them," said White.

"They'll play on a Saturday and then report back to Loftus on the Sunday, when there's a recovery session and all the guys work together and do medicals. It also assist us coaches to take stock more effectively for the next week's action. 

"I believe we're going to develop our players better if we make them part of the club system instead of just letting them carry tackle bags and shields most of the time."

But the "fun" won't stop there.

White and co also hope a few quirky and old school symbolic acts will deepen the players' bond with their clubs.

"They'll be wearing club socks to training once a week and club kit once a month," he said.

"We're also expect players to get to their clubs once or twice a week, where they'll watch a training session on a Tuesday and help out on a Thursday with something like line-outs drills for example."

Kick-off at Loftus is at 19:00.

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