The Stormers confirmed on Wednesday that Springbok Rugby World Cup-winning fullback Warrick Gelant would join them in Cape Town, leaving the Bulls after more than six years in Pretoria.
Gelant will immediately fill the void left by fullback Dillyn Leyds, who is joining French club La Rochelle, and his acquisition gives head coach John Dobson the bonus of a ready-made product to join his talented backline.
The 25-year-old joins fellow 2019 Rugby World Cup stars Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Herschel Jantjies, Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Damian Willemse. The move also means Willemse will get time to settle in his favoured No 10 position, something Dobson pointed out.
"Warrick has established himself as one of the most dynamic backline players in South Africa, so we could not be more thrilled to have him on our books going forward," said Dobson.
"With Dillyn Leyds leaving, we couldn’t have asked for anyone better to step into the 15 jersey. I am sure his presence will also have a hugely positive influence on the players around him.
"We are also looking forward to giving Damian Willemse the opportunity to settle at flyhalf going forward, with Warrick providing his trademark strike threat from the back.
"Warrick is a deadly finisher with a wonderful feel for the game and awareness of space, which is just what we need for the talent we already have in the backline to thrive."
Gelant’s departure is a massive loss for the Bulls, who were on a mission to build around last year’s World Cup stars and promising young players.
Although new director of rugby Jake White brought in 37-year-old hot-stepping veteran Gio Aplon, Gelant was meant to be one of the fulcrum members of the Bulls renaissance.
"Warrick is an amazing player, and there is no doubt that he will excel wherever he goes," said White.
"It’s sad to see him go and we would have loved to keep him at Loftus, but we fully understand his decision and wish him all of the best with his rugby journey ahead."
Despite being often injury-prone, Gelant was starting to sparkle once again in the Bulls jersey before the Covid-19 pandemic brought all sport to an abrupt halt. He will be playing in a different shade of blue by the time competitive rugby resumes.
"I sincerely would like to thank each individual for making my time here special, from the coaches and players, to the management and admin staff," Gelant said.
"It feels strange saying goodbye after all these years. Loftus was my home, and the people at the Bulls were my family, but time has come for me to move on and enter a new phase of my life.”
"I can’t wait to join up with the Stormers and I’m very excited about what the future holds. I want to take my game to new heights, and I believe that working with the players and the coaches at the Stormers will help me to do that."
- Compiled by Sibusiso Mjikeliso