Pretoria - The Bulls have confirmed the signing of Cheetahs flank Boom Prinsloo on a two year contract, but the signing raises more questions than answers about the direction that the Bulls are taking under the current management.
It is a widely-known fact that the Bulls are one of the largest recruiters when it comes to junior rugby in South Africa and often sign a large number of the top junior players in the country.
This was started at the turn of the century as then-coach Heyneke Meyer and his high performance manager Ian Schwartz sought to give the rugby union a system where players are developed and come through the junior ranks into the senior team, with the Bulls ultimately being self-sustaining and not spending big money on players who come out of contract in the middle of their careers.
One of the advantages of this system was that the Bulls didn’t then have to compete on the open market with overseas clubs, and would back their young players to “come through the system”, which led to the team’s three Super Rugby titles and years of dominance in the SA market.
Yet, recent moves by the union have indicated that this policy is almost certainly abandoned, with the Bulls now acquiring players from other unions as much as any of the other big three in the country.
Prinsloo’s signing, for instance, makes little sense in a franchise which already has three top openside flankers - Springbok Roelof Smit and former SA Under-20 stars Shaun Adendorff and Ruan Steenkamp. While all three are currently injured, the signing of a 28-year old journeyman makes little sense in the current climate and brings into question the plans in the Pretoria franchise.
Prinsloo is a quality player, no doubt, and a workhorse that would find a place in most top provinces in the country, but unless the Bulls find a loophole in the SANZAAR regulations, it seems he will not be able to play for the Bulls this season as he has already represented the Cheetahs.
Prinsloo came on as a substitute against the Bulls in the second round of the competition, and SANZAAR’s rules state that any player who plays for one team cannot play for another during the season.
SANZAAR confirmed to SuperSport.com that they have informed the Bulls that Prinsloo cannot play for them in this year’s competition, meaning he will spend the rest of the Super Rugby season plying his trade in the SuperSport Challenge.
Still, a look at the Bulls line-up that will challenge the unbeaten Crusaders this weekend finds a number of players have followed the same route, and haven’t come through the ranks.
Jamba Ulengo (Sevens), Piet van Zyl (Cheetahs), Rudy Paige (Lions), Jacques Potgieter (Kings), Renaldo Bothma (Pumas), Lood de Jager (Cheetahs), Nic de Jager (Saracens), Trevor Nyakane (Cheetahs), Lizo Gqoboka (Kings), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs, although was at the Bulls as a junior), Edgar Marutlulle (Kings), John-Roy Jenkinson (Cheetahs), Martin Dreyer (Stormers, Dax), Johnny Kotze (Stormers), Jacobie Adriaanse (Kings) and Corniel Els (cheetahs) all were brought in from elsewhere.
And while it may not seem like a big thing in the professional era, consider the fact that the Lions alone have a number of former Bulls players who left the union after deciding to continue their future elsewhere and are now excelling at their new provinces.
Courtnall Skosan, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marvin Orie, Franco Mostert, Faf de Klerk and Robbie Coetzee for instance have found life on the other side of the Jukskei to be to their liking while at the Stormers Wilco Louw has flourished in Cape Town.
To be fair the Bulls youth programme has produced the likes of Warrick Gelant, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Travis Ismaiel and Hanro Liebenberg, while the signatures of Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein and Handre Pollard were treasured as juniors and catapulted them early into the senior side.
But lately more and more players are being imported at a senior level from outside, while the junior programme faces massive competition with the Lions and Western Province in particular being much more aggressive in the signing of junior players.
Meanwhile, news on the injury front is that Kotze, who hasn’t appeared for the Bulls since signing from the Stormers last year, is cleared to play and could be in the match-day 23 this weekend against the Crusaders.
In addition, the Bulls were given a boost by the news that All Black captain Kieran Reid (broken finger) and Sam Whitelock (disciplinary, two week ban) won’t be in the Crusaders team to face the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, leaving a gaping hole in terms of leadership in the side. However, as the Crusaders showed in their demolition of the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, their unbeaten record is a team effort and the Bulls still face a massive challenge.