Following Warrick Gelant’s departure to Western Province, DYLAN JACK looks at who could fill the gap left by the Springbok fullback at the Vodacom Bulls.
Gelant’s decision to turn down the offer of a contract extension at the Bulls will certainly have come as a shock at Loftus Versfeld. The 25-year-old was part of director of rugby Jake White’s long-term plans, but has instead opted for a change of scenery by moving back to the Western Cape.
White will now be pondering his options and could yet bring in a new player as a long-term replacement. Here, SARugbymag.co.za takes a look at those players currently contracted to the Bulls who could offer a potential solution at fullback.
The 37-year-old veteran is hardly a long-term solution, but has at least a couple of seasons left in him. Aplon and White worked together at Top League side Toyota Verblitz and forged a strong relationship in Japan, so it was hardly surprising for the Springbok back to follow White to South Africa. Now that Gelant is gone, Aplon may have to play more rugby than perhaps he would have expected when he signed for the Bulls. However, if his displays for Verblitz are anything to go by, Aplon has lost none of the silky running that made him a hit in Cape Town and could – at least in the short term – have a massive impact in Pretoria.
Rossouw, who can also play wing, has often stepped up to play at fullback when Gelant was absent through illness or injury. At 24 years old, Rossouw still has his best years ahead and already showed that he can more than handle his own at Super Rugby level. If White is looking for someone who is reliable – if underrated – and can be counted on to do the job, he need not look further than Rossouw.
Unlikely, yes, given that Libbok has been heavily linked with a move away from Loftus to join the Sharks later this year. But if White were to have a change of heart, the 22-year-old could play at fullback even though he is more comfortable at flyhalf. Libbok has shown that he can be a potential match-winner and has the temperament and mental strength to bounce back from a poor performance. His counter-attacking ability and vision were what possibly tempted former Bulls coach Pote Human to trial Libbok in the position this year.
One of three juniors on this list, Kriel was included in the Bulls’ Super Rugby squad this year. The 19-year-old, who turns 20 in July, was set to get a taste of international rugby after being included in the Junior Springboks’ training squads before the World Rugby U20 Championship was cancelled. Kriel played a major role in the Blue Bulls’ victorious Provincial U21 campaign, where he faced brother David (who is contracted with Western Province) in the final. Perhaps one of the major reasons for Aplon’s signing was to mentor players like Kriel, but the Grey College graduate could be thrust into the limelight sooner than anticipated.
Equally comfortable at flyhalf, Isaacs spent a good portion of time at fullback for UP-Tuks and the Junior Springboks in 2019. However, he did make his Currie Cup debut as a flyhalf replacement against the Sharks last year. The 21-year-old has already shown what he can do at age-grade and varsity level and is well due to be tested in senior rugby.
Currently in his second year out of school, April starred at flyhalf for Boland at the U18 Craven Week and earned himself a contract at the Bulls. However, it seems that he could make a similar move as Isaacs, as he has been playing at fullback for UP-Tuks in the Varsity Cup. April certainly has the ability, but possibly could do with another year of development before being thrown into the unforgiving arena of Super Rugby.