Following the Vodacom Bulls’ Currie Cup success, CRAIG LEWIS pinpoints three takeaways from the title-winning team’s season.
Golden oldies added value
Not all of the Bulls’ player recruitments panned out as expected, but even though many questions were asked (and a few jokes made) when Morne Steyn returned to Loftus in early 2020, he repaid that faith in the most emphatic fashion.
Steyn was quite sensational throughout this past domestic season, with the 36-year-old rolling back the years to make important contributions on and off the field.
Cornal Hendricks, 32, was another memorable performer, and his successful transition to centre was one of the good-news stories for South African rugby. Duane Vermeulen, 34, was also all class, while Trevor Nyakane was another member of the ‘over-30s’ club who enjoyed a standout season.
It’s only a pity Gio Aplon suffered a serious injury early on in the Bulls’ campaign as there is every chance the 38-year-old would have been another valuable contributor.
Bulls weren’t just one-dimensional
Prior to the start of the new-look season, many perceived the recruitment of several forwards as further indication that the Bulls would rely heavily on a strong pack and the kicking game of Steyn and the scrumhalves.
Call it 10-man rugby or what has been termed as ‘Jake-ball’ by some, but there weren’t many who expected the Bulls to make such an impression in several key attacking areas.
Yet, their ability to complement a powerful pack with some compelling intent and variety on attack meant they were able to offer more than just one or two predictable threats.
The use of outside consultants was an unheralded masterstroke
Although legendary Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez worked only part time as a coaching consultant, both Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier hailed his influence.
As one of the greatest scrumhalves to ever play the game, Du Preez shared pearls of wisdom from an illustrious career, and it can surely be no coincidence that both Van Zyl and Papier enjoyed the sort of seasons that could bring them back into the national conversation.
Another unsung hero from the Bulls’ campaign was the role of highly regarded sports psychologist Henning Gericke, who was brought in by White to help ensure the team’s mental preparations were also on point.
He was a key figure in building the Bulls’ vision around a key theme of the season, which revolved around the number 24 and several symbolic and motivational factors as the Pretoria-based side eventually went on to claim a 24th Currie Cup title.