Super Rugby

Bulls hoping to enlist the 'Policeman' to further strengthen depth

Jacques van Rooyen. (Gallo Images)
Jacques van Rooyen. (Gallo Images)
  • Former Lions prop Jacques van Rooyen is set for a trial at the Bulls this coming week as the franchise explores some depth in the loosehead position.
  • The 33-year-old, nicknamed "Policeman" for his involvement at Pretoria Police rugby club, could prove a useful and experienced backup to Springbok Lizo Gqoboka, who is the first-choice option in the No 1 jersey.
  • Van Rooyen is a now classic example as a late bloomer and the virtues of club rugby, having only signed his first professional contract at age 27.

South Africa's top eight franchises' return to training on Monday will coincide with the Bulls granting a trial for Jacques van Rooyen.

Willem Strauss, the union's president, on Sunday confirmed that the 33-year-old former Lions prop, who was affectionately known as "Policeman" at Ellis Park owing to his involvement at Pretoria Police rugby club (now known as Quins-Bobbies), will undergo an extensive medical next week with a view to signing a potential contract.

Van Rooyen is a free agent after his contract with Japanese club NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes wasn't renewed and could prove to be a particularly useful acquisition for Jake White, the Bulls' director of rugby.

Springbok Lizo Gqoboka is currently the franchise's first-choice loosehead, but his backup is two highly promising yet inexperienced prospects in Simphiwe Matanzima and Gerhard Steenekamp.

Van Rooyen, known for his powerful scrumming and almost uncanny mobility, would add much-needed wisdom into the mix, especially if Gqoboka - however unlikely international action might be in 2020 - is called up for national duty.

Despite White having two Bok tightheads in Trevor Nyakane and Marcel van der Merwe on his roster, Van Rooyen is comfortable in the No 3 jersey too after he was retreaded in that position in the latter stages of his stay in Doornfontein.

Should he be able to crack a nod, it would represent a homecoming of sorts for him.

Van Rooyen, languishing in club rugby despite his coaches marketing him to the Bulls' hierarchy, had managed to catch the attention of then Lions coach Johan Ackermann, who offered him a trial and subsequently a contract in 2013.     

At the ripe age of 27, he was belatedly a professional player.

Van Rooyen was an integral part of the Lions team that reached three consecutive Super Rugby finals, before sojourns at English club Bath in 2018 and his Japanese adventure.

"He's a wonderful example of a late developer and a testament to the platform that club rugby can still lay for a professional career," said Strauss.

- Compiled by Heinz Schenk

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