Super Rugby

The 5 'pillars' of the Bulls' future success

Muller Uys (Gallo Images)
Muller Uys (Gallo Images)

It's debatable whether money can always buy sporting happiness, but it certainly helps.

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The Bulls have reason to be optimistic over their future prospects - whenever that may be - after a fruitful shopping spree in the past month or so. Springboks Duane Vermeulen, Marcel van der Merwe, Gio Aplon and Arno Botha have been recruited, providing new director of rugby, Jake White, with an immensely solid core of experience to build his squad around.

Adding further steel are current members such as Trevor Nyakane, Lizo Gqoboka and Juandre Kruger.

Yet the Bulls are acutely aware that their infusion of proven class has to be complemented by proper succession planning for longer-term success, a process set in motion this week by the contract extensions afforded to key rookies.

Here are the five "pillars" of future prosperity for the men from Loftus.

MULLER UYS

The 21-year-old's new two-year commitment to the Bulls earlier this week was a massive boost on various fronts, but one stands out: South African rugby lacks an abundance of imposing, ball-carrying loose forwards. Uys, a former Junior Springbok star, fits the bill as a 1.92m, 112kg hulk who combines his undeniable brawn with, as former head coach Pote Human was eager to point out earlier this year,  a strong dose of "intelligence".

He was unleashed in the Bulls' last two Super Rugby matches this season before its suspension and impressed with his high work-rate and robust defence.

Uys must surely be considered Vermeulen's long-term successor. 

SIMPHIWE MATANZIMA

The Bulls' first-choice front row of Gqoboka, Jaco Visagie and Nyakane might have become South African rugby's strongest scrumming unit since Daan Human took charge of the set-piece at Loftus, but that prowess isn't confined to the seniors.

Twenty-two-year-old Matanzima, grandson of the late former president of Transkei Kaiser, was nicknamed "Beast" at Queens College and his showings at loosehead over the past 12 months have provided numerous examples of why that's accurate.

There was one particularly memorable moment in 2019, when Matanzima came on during a tight Super Rugby derby in Durban and promptly smashed the home pack at a scrum to force the match-clinching penalty.

His 2020 has been curtailed by a knee injury, but don't bet against him roaring back.

JOHAN GROBBELAAR

Grobbelaar's contract extension this week is both exciting and intriguing.

The 22-year-old from Paarl isn't quite a prototype White hooker, who in the past favoured taller No 2s such as John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis.

Then again, he wasn't averse to selecting more compact options like Hanyani Shimange and Gary Botha.

Grobbelaar has been considered one the country's most promising exponents ever since his selection for SA Schools and earned high praise during the Junior Springboks' 2017 World Championship campaign.

Known for his bustling style of play, he's shown some sublime touches in the mould of Schalk Brits and will surely blossom if White backs him.

RICHARD KRIEL

He’s still only 19, but the lanky fullback is already being earmarked for fast-tracking in the senior squad.

In fact, one of the reasons veteran Aplon has been acquired is to mentor the exciting rookie.

Boasting an impressive physique, Kriel - whose twin brother David plays for Western Province - played a major role in the latter stages of the Blue Bulls' triumphant under-21 campaign, scoring three tries in just six matches.

Should Warrick Gelant's move to Cape Town materialise, the former Grey College star might be thrust into the limelight even quicker.

EMBROSE PAPIER

It's easy to forget the Springbok scrumhalf is still only 23 after two whirlwind years of contrasting fortunes.

By the end of 2018, Papier looked set to kick on following an accomplished end-of-year trip to Europe with the national team, where he notably impressed against Scotland.

Yet the Bulls' wayward rotation policy in the No 9 jersey -where he had to compete with fellow Bok Ivan van Zyl - saw one of SA's most prominent schoolboy prodigies lose confidence as Herschel Jantjies seized his chance.

However, Papier's unique, instinctive attacking intelligence and a strong but unrefined kicking game means under the right guidance he could easily become the nucleus of the Bulls' game-plan. 

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