Vodacom Bulls director of rugby Jake White has emphasised that change was needed after their disappointing performances in Vodacom Super Rugby and the Currie Cup.
Following the confirmation that White was taking over as the Bulls director of rugby back in March, there has been plenty of action going on behind the scenes at Loftus Versfeld.
With the franchise restructuring its coaching staff, Pote Human departed and White took over as head coach. Joey Mongalo and Russell Winter have also been brought in as the Bulls’ defence and forwards coaches respectively.
Fans were left surprised when it was confirmed that 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby captain Burger Odendaal would be leaving for local rivals the Lions. He will be joined out the exit door by Divan Rossouw, Jaco Visagie and Wiehahn Herbst – who will all also be joining the Lions – as well as Josh Strauss, Jeandre Rudolph, Manie Libbok, Johnny Kotze, Rosko Specman and Warrick Gelant.
There have also been an exciting number of acquisitions. Duane Vermeulen and Arno Botha will both be moving back to Pretoria and are joined by Nizaam Carr in boosting the team’s loose-forward stocks. Other high-profile signings include Springbok tighthead Marcel van der Merwe, wing Travis Ismaiel, fullback Gio Aplon and Cheetahs second-row pair Walt Steenkamp and Sintu Manjezi.
White told supporters on the Bulls mobile app that while perceptions that the franchise is going on a spending spree are incorrect, changes still needed to be made to get the team challenging for titles again.
‘There has obviously been some speculation in the media that there is this massive spending spree and an open cheque book from the Bulls to buy whoever we want,’ White explained. ‘I think what’s important for the fans to understand is that you are only allowed 45 players in your squad and that you can only spend R60 million on your player budget. If you break the rule you get fined and obviously from a South African point of view it’s also not the way you do things.
‘Behind the scenes there has been a lot of interaction with some players, there has been a lot of releases allowed where players want to leave and go play offshore. Some of them want to join other franchises.
‘In the same time, we have been busy signing from other franchises like we did with Walt Steenkamp and Sintu Manjezi, who have joined us. Some of them have still got their commitments to finish at the franchises before their contracts end at the end of October.
‘Obviously, it is exciting and people are speculating out there. There is still a lot of signings to be made. There is still a lot of negotiations to be done, but I think I can assure all the supporters that we are doing what we can to create a super studded team.
‘We are creating a champion team and that means there will be some changes. And I think Bulls supporters will agree with me. Coming seventh last year in the Currie Cup, losing five out of six games this year in Super Rugby, some changes were needed.
‘There is some exciting youngsters as I said. We are just making sure that the balance of our squad – the seniors, the guys we are bringing in, the guys we are keeping the guys we are looking to bring in the future – are going to be a team that will make the Bulls supporters proud again.’
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