Super Rugby

The new Os du Randt and 'Rocket Man' - Jake White's young Bulls bolters this weekend

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Jan-Hendrik Wessels
Jan-Hendrik Wessels
  • While most of his squad for this weekend's Super Fan Saturday event are seniors, Jake White has also included two age-group stars in Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Stravino Jacobs.
  • The Bulls' director of rugby unashamedly believes that Wessels is the next Os du Randt.
  • Jacobs has also come from relative obscurity - at least in the Bulls hierarchy - to play himself into contention.

Jake White, perhaps conscious of getting his Springboks match fit as soon as possible should the Rugby Championship become a reality, will boast most of his senior squad players for this weekend's Super Fan Saturday meeting with the Sharks at Loftus.

But there are a few exceptions, notably 19-year-old Jan-Hendrik Wessels, whom the Bulls director of rugby has compared already to a Springbok legend.

"This is my first formal media conference at Loftus and I want to tell you guys from the outset that this guy reminds me of Os du Randt," said White.

"He will become a Springbok. There's no doubt in my mind."

Wessels, another graduate from the rugby factory that is Grey College, made waves last year when he, along with fellow school mate George Cronje, signed an agreement with French giants Clermont along, while another friend Marcell Muller went to Montpellier.

Yet the Covid-19 pandemic shuffled all three players' decks to the extent that they're back in South Africa.

At 1.93m and 120kg, Wessels is an absolute man-mountain who was expected to star for the Junior Springboks this year.

"Our job is do bring him in the right way," said White.

"There's an opportunity (this weekend) for him to play with some Springboks, particularly in a rolling subs environment. He can learn about senior rugby. The Under-21 tournament starts next week and he'll definitely be a part of that.

"This weekend is an ideal environment for him. Not only because of the national players' presence but also because he's been part of the pre-season with us."

Wessels will be joined by 20-year-old Stravino Jacobs, dubbed "The Rocket Man" during his time at Paarl Gimnasium, who played for SA Schools and was also slated to become a Junior Springbok in 2020.

Stravino Jacobs during his Paarl Gim days

The pacey winger with some surprising punch has been a revelation for White.

"I'm still new at this. Some of the youngsters have really surprised me," said the former World Cup-winning Springbok coach.

"I've got this young guy, Stravino, that's come in and he's an unbelievable player. He's just such a rough diamond and I want to see what he's like when he plays in a senior combination. He's a great youngster, maybe with him and Gio (Aplon) and Travis (Ismaiel) as a combo together, we'll see him already add some value."

In fact, Jacobs' unexpected if pleasing elevation confirms that White - perhaps now unfairly labelled as a coach favouring size over nimbleness - is counting more mercurial talents to add more flair to his attack.

The Bulls also boast Blitzbok stars Stedman Gans and Kurt-Lee Arendse in the 30-man squad for the weekend.  

"I’m told I usually only like big okes and that we’re only going to play like the Bulls used to," said White.

"Guys like Gio, Kurt-Lee and Embrose (Papier) aren't big guys at all but they've got great skills. I'm really excited about them. Watch this space, I'm really excited."

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