Super Rugby

Return to training: Bulls and Lions experiencing contrasting fortunes

Gio Aplon (Gallo)
Gio Aplon (Gallo)
  • The Bulls' list of recruits are undeniably impressive, but very few of them are likely to be seen at Loftus immediately owing to Covid-19 logistical challenges.
  • Three European-based signings are still stuck overseas due to international travel restrictions.
  • Other players are also training individually in other provinces, notably in the Western Cape, as the Bulls finalise their returns to Pretoria.
  • In contrast, the Lions can resume their activities imminently with a full senior training group.

Jake White and the Bulls' extensive shopping spree makes it abundantly clear that there's huge faith in the Loftus project, but there's a caveat: the marquee players won't immediately stamp their authority on it.

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Following government's gazetting of Level 3 regulations on professional sport, all South Africa's local franchises are expected to be back in training within the next few days following last week's screenings and testing.

Last week's recruitment of Nizaam Carr though exemplifies the logistical challenges White is being confronted with currently.

The versatile 29-year-old flanker, who joins from Wasps, is still in the UK and joins Marcel van der Merwe and Arno Botha, who are stuck in France and Ireland respectively, as signings who look increasingly unlikely to feature in at least the initial stages of August's proposed domestic-based Super Rugby competition.

With the trio's return subject to the relaxation of international travel restrictions, there's understandably not much the Bulls can do.

On a more promising but still pesky note, the franchise's two other prominent recruits - veterans Duane Vermeulen and Gio Aplon - are still training individually in Cape Town, where they are based.

Sport24 understands that the Bulls' current plan, spearheaded by White and team doctor Herman Rossouw, is for the players down in the Western Cape to travel to Pretoria on Friday in order to report for duty next week Monday.

Embrose Papier, current first-choice scrumhalf, will also be making the trip after he spent lockdown with family in the province.

It has also been reiterated that the Bulls' plans in this regard aren't cast in stone, with White and Rossouw apparently, and prudently, very conscious of the fluidity of the situation.

What is undeniable, however, is that the franchise's early conditioning and non-contact training will commence with player numbers steadily swelling as time passes.

South of the Jukskei river, the Lions might've been affected substantially by the 21-day opt-out transfer window last month, with final confirmation the past weekend that star Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx is indeed not returning.

But head coach Ivan 'Cash' van Rooyen will be pleased not having to deal with the same obstacles as his neighbours, with the whole of his senior squad back in Gauteng.

This was confirmed to Sport24.

Given his reputation as one of the most accomplished fitness experts in the country, Van Rooyen can look forward to a generally unhindered "pre-season" before the return of competitive action.     

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