As uncertainty reigns over South African rugby’s Covid-19 “escape clause”, the Bulls can claim a fruitful lockdown after confirming the signing of Gio Aplon on Wednesday.
The evergreen 37-year-old veteran is the latest high-profile acquisition for the Loftus-based franchise, following the re-signing of Springbok stalwart Duane Vermeulen as well as the capture of experienced international tighthead Marcel van der Merwe.
Diminutive but electrifying, Aplon is a trusted lieutenant of the Bulls’ director of rugby, Jake White, with whom he enjoyed a good relationship at Japanese side Toyota Verblitz.
"The Bulls have always been a formidable force in the rugby world. I have always had a great deal of respect for the brand and what it has achieved, and I am truly looking forward to running out at Loftus," he said.
"Coach Jake has an amazing vision and plan for the team, and I am just honoured that he wants me as part of it. I look forward to making the Bulls proud."
Aplon, who scored five tries in 17 Tests for the Springboks, is no stranger to Super Rugby, having been a Stormers favourite before a six-year stint overseas, which included a successful affiliation with French side Grenoble too.
The Hawston-born flyer might not be a spring chicken anymore, but he's no slouch either and will provide wisdom and proven nous in a back division that doesn’t exactly ooze experience.
Willem Strauss, Blue Bulls president, confirmed that Aplon will be utilised as a mentor.
"His role in the development of potential superstars such as (19-year-old youth level star) Richard Kriel will be worth its weight in gold."
The Bulls are also expected to announce the return of Arno Botha, a two-cap Springbok, who overcame a litany of injury problems to revive his career in Ireland in due course.
- Compiled by Heinz Schenk