Rainbow Cup

More than a decade later, Bulls club rugby has professionals competing again

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Recent Bulls recruit Mhleli Dlamini will turn out for Harlequins this weekend. (Supplied)
Recent Bulls recruit Mhleli Dlamini will turn out for Harlequins this weekend. (Supplied)
  • The Bulls formally confirmed their plan to integrate their senior professional squad into their club teams when they are available. 
  • No less than 11 players from Jake White's current group will make their debuts in the Carlton League this weekend.
  • Senior players such as Duane Vermeulen, Trevor Nyakane and Morne Steyn won't be playing for clubs, but will be employed as ambassadors.

Jake White gave a pretty decent glimpse into the Bulls' latest initiative to make club rugby prominent in Pretoria again last week and now the full details have been confirmed.

No less than eleven players from the senior side's group of contracted players will make their debut in the union's premier amateur competition, the Carlton league this weekend.

Notable names include hooker Schalk Erasmus - recruited back last year from Western Province - and No 8 WJ Steenkamp, who was a regular starter in the preparation series earlier this year.

This weekend's club debutants:

Naka Bulls: Werner Gouws, Diego Appollis, Jay-Cee Nel

Harlequins Rugby Club: Henco Beukes, Mhleli Dlamini

Centurion Rugby Club: Bernard van der Linde

Tuine Rugby Club: WJ Steenkamp, Janco Uys, Richard Kriel, Schalk Erasmus

Pretoria Rugby Club: Dawid Kellerman

That almost dozen of players aren't the exception though - every Bulls member has been assigned a club, which was conducted via a drafting system similar to the NFL in the USA.

It's the first time in more than a decade that professional players from the franchise will be involved on the local club circuit.

"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," White said last week.

"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."

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

Naturally, some high-profile players like Duane Vermeulen, Trevor Nyakane and Morne Steyn won't be expected to actually turn out for their clubs, but will be attending social events.

For Willem Strauss, whose platform towards his presidency back in late 2018 was reviving club rugby, this initiative builds on the significant work that has already been done in this regard.

"In the last three years we have implemented a number of strategies and initiatives to make club rugby relevant again. We have aligned our professional and amateur structures to create pathways for club players to our professional Under-20 and Under-21 teams. No less than seven club players form part of the current professional Under-20 squad," he said.

"We also revived our iconic Loftus 200 team and expanded the Carlton League to include two more clubs. We also initiated an extremely successful Volcano Under-20 league which acted as a feeder source to numerous under-20 provincial teams in the country."

All the Bulls and their clubs:
Centurion: Gio Aplon, Bernard van der Linde, Mornay Smith, Travis Ismaiel, Nizaam Carr, David Kriel, Walt Steenkamp, Kurt-Lee Arendse

Harlequins: Duane Vermeulen, Mhleli Dlamini, Henco Beukes, Sintu Manjezi, Trevor Nyakane, Chris Smith, Stravino Jacobs, Joe van Zyl

Naka Bulls: Werner Gouws, Diego Appollis, Simphiwe Matanzima, Arno Botha, Ruan Nortje, Lizo Gqoboka, Jay-Cee Nel, Gerhard Steenkamp

Pretoria: Janko Swanepoel, James Verity-Amm, Jan Uys, Jaco Labuschagne, Dawid Kellerman, Marco van Staden, Madosh Tambwe, Marco Jansen van Vuren

Tuine: WJ Steenkamp, Richard Kriel, Janco Uys, Jacques van Rooyen, Morné Steyn, Schalk Erasmus, Ivan van Zyl, Zak Burger

Tukkies: Clinton Swart, Marnus Potgieter, Muller Uys, Keagan Johannes, Embrose Papier, Elrigh Louw, Johan Grobbelaar, Tim Agaba

Northam: Cornal Hendriks, Stedman Gans

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