• Botha, Spies nearing return

    Springbok loose forwards Arno Botha and Pierre Spies will be back on the training field at the start of next year.

    Botha has been out of action since February this year after injuring his knee in a warm-up match against the Stormers ahead of the Super Rugby season. Spies was also sidelined for much of the 2014 season after requiring surgery on a ruptured bicep, the same injury that kept him on the sidelines during 2013.

    Both players will continue their rehabilitation and form part of the Bulls' wider training group that will assemble on 5 January to begin preparations for next year's Super Rugby competition.

    On Thursday, the Bulls also confirmed that Akona Ndungane, Werner Kruger and SA U20 outside back Duncan Matthews have signed new contracts with the union that will keep them in Pretoria until October 2016.

    Matthews is one of a number of new faces in the squad for the new season, along with fellow Junior Springbok players Jesse Kriel, Dan Kriel and Warrick Gelant. New signings Lappies Labuschagne, Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss are also part of the group.

    'I am very excited about this group. We have great depth in many crucial positions, so should be covered when injury strikes,' said Bulls coach Frans Ludeke.

    'The influx of youth excites me as these players have wonderful skills, particularly on attack. This will allow us a different approach in that department.

    'A number of these youngsters have been exposed to senior rugby already and should hit the ground running in the Super Rugby competition. It was always part of the long-term strategy for these youngsters to develop into Super Rugby players and I think we have managed that well.'

    The Bulls will play their first match of the year in Polokwane on 24 January against an unnamed opponent, before travelling to London to face Saracens a week later.

    Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix