Newly appointed Bulls director of rugby Alan Zondagh has confirmed his primary role over the next three years will be to overhaul their player development system.
Zondagh’s appointment was confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday, along with the appointment of Pote Human as head coach of the Bulls Super Rugby team.
Speaking on the challenges ahead, Zondagh said strengthening the Bulls’ player depth, as well as their coaching structures, will be his main focal points.
‘I’ve worked with young players for many years and I think the most important thing at a union or franchise like this is the Super Rugby team. And if we get young players into our system, we have to develop them in such a way that they are knocking on the Super Rugby door every year.
‘I speak to a lot of unions across South Africa and they agree players might win U19 and U21 competitions, but there isn’t really a player who came through that system and is knocking on the door of Super Rugby. It’s no use winning at U19 and U21 levels every year, but you’re not really making progress in Super Rugby. We have to look at our systems and get it to where our young players break into the Super Rugby squads. That is my main job.’
Zondagh further explained that he plans to play a big part in the talent identification process and contracting of players at the union.
‘I’m definitely going to play a role in that. I think I’ve got an eye for talent. The Bulls haven’t done a bad job with that over the past few years. You can get the best players from school, but if you don’t really work with them properly and don’t develop them continuously, they are not going to be the players you want them to be by the time they get to professional rugby.
‘It takes a player about five years before he gets to senior rugby. So you have to invest five years into most players. And I’m not talking about the Pollards, Lambies, Boschs, most of the time it’s the flyhalves who get into senior ranks quicker. I’m talking about the rest of the boys.’
Zondagh also mentioned his plan to improve the union’s coaching structures.
‘There isn’t much that needs to be changed, but we will make a few alterations. We have excellent personnel here at the moment, so my goal will be to strengthen the coaching structure. That will allow the union to handle setbacks, like the departure of John Mitchell, in a better way.’
Heading into Super Rugby, Zondagh has warned the Bulls’ players against getting accustomed to a specific brand of rugby.
‘I’m here to support Pote, he is the head coach and together we will make sure that we play winning rugby. Rugby is played in either a conservative manner or a creative style. Our players have to be able to play both ways, depending on who our opponents are and what we’re trying to do in a match.’