- Bulls mentor Jake White has confirmed that they are in discussions with Bismarck du Plessis.
- No agreement is in place with the 37-year-old former Springbok hooker, who recently returned from France.
- White is not perturbed that his potential signing will be perceived as the Bulls "buying" their success.
Jake White has confirmed that the Bulls are in talks with Bismarck du Plessis, but there's no "commitment" yet from both parties on an agreement.
The 37-year-old former Springbok hooker, who played 79 Tests in a fruitful international career, emerged as an intriguing option for bolstering the Loftus franchise's already bulging stocks, particularly given that his options at hooker are considered gifted yet not necessarily experienced.
Indeed, Johan Grobbelaar, who only turns 24 in late December and currently on tour with the Springboks, is the oldest No 2 in Pretoria currently.
"We haven't completed that signing by any means," White said on Thursday ahead of the Bulls' home Currie Cup semi-final against Western Province on Friday night.
"We've had meetings. But yeah, Bismarck is the calibre of player that we want here. I've said numerous times that it's tough competition in the northern hemisphere and you're going to need experienced players who've been exposed to those conditions.
"It's important to have a guy like him involved."
Du Plessis returned to South Africa in July following a six-year stint with French club Montpellier, who White coached between 2014 and 2017, and is still assessing his options.
"There are a few issues that need to be ironed out. We have negotiated with him, chatted a bit about our objectives and what he still wants to achieve," said the Bulls' director of rugby.
"He's back on the farm and is weighing up our offer. To be fair to him, he also has a few things to consider. He only returned recently, he has three young children and he needs to decide about his next step. Hopefully it's to play for the Bulls."
The fact that White is intent on cultivating a talented group of hookers - Grobbelaar, Schalk Erasmus, Joe van Zyl and Jan-Hendrik Wessels - in the long-term, also means that the alignment of all parties' goals is vital.
"We're going to need the resources to send out two quality squads out, especially early next year when the Currie Cup overlaps with the United Rugby Championship (URC). A guy like Bismarck could also be employed to build depth," he said.
"One week, we can have a situation where Jan-Hendrik is tasked with learning from Bismarck to cope with a crunch Currie Cup game. If we feel Bismarck will be a better option in Connacht, where he can impart his experience on a Joe or Schalk and help them cope with wet, cold conditions, then we need to determine if we'll have the buy-in from all involved.
"Every senior player needs to come in, understand his role and be 100% happy with that role. That's part of the theory we're putting together. Who knows? Bismarck is an old Grey boy, Jan-Hendrik is one too. Maybe there's a bit of a natural emotional bond already."
Du Plessis' potential recruitment would, in all likelihood, lead to another bout of criticism from detractors that the Bulls are "buying" their way to success - a view some believe is valid given a list of signings that includes Marcell Coetzee, Johan Goosen, Lionel Mapoe, Arno Botha and Jacques du Plessis.
But surely that's the name of the game of pro sport anyway?
"Every top franchise in SA has the opportunity to spend R60 million on its squad and try to lure the players that they want," said White.
"The goalposts aren't shifted for us. The fact that we can attract players of the calibre that we have is great. If these type of players 'buy' us success, then so be it. You'll never keep everyone happy.
"We're just privileged that the players we have here want to play for us. We want to win everything, every year. Isn't that the objective of every team?"
Kick-off is at 19:00.
15 David Kriel, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Janko Swanepoel, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Schalk Erasmus, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp
Substitutes: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 WJ Steenkamp, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Stravino Jacobs
15 Sergeal Petersen, 14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Paul de Wet, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Marcel Theunissen, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Johan du Toit, 4 Ernst van Rhyn (captain), 3 Sazi Sandi, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Leon Lyons
Substitutes: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Dian Bleuler, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Justin Basson, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Rikus Pretorius, 23 Tristan Leyds, 24 Warrick Gelant