Bulls looking to make a big change at the top

Super Rugby
PRETORIA - There could be a new sheriff in town at Loftus Versfeld by the end of June with the Blue Bulls Company's board of directors said to be moving swiftly at appointing a director of rugby and consultants to assist the beleaguered Bulls Super Rugby campaign.

The Bulls sunk to yet another loss when they were soundly beaten 51-14 by the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, necessitating the need for urgent help for the out-of-sorts coach Nollis Marais and his team who have now lost eight of their 11 matches this year.

Heyneke Meyer had been the firm favourite to be handed his previous job at Loftus but it is alleged that talks with the former Springbok boss deadlocked over his salary and his powers over the Super Rugby franchise and union.

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Bulls Coach Nollis Marais. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePixFormer Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is one of the candidates to take over at Loftus. Photo: EPA/Kim LudbrookCurrent Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan is also considered to be in the running. Photo: Reuters / Henry Browne

Two weeks ago, Meyer had extended a helping hand to the ailing Bulls in an advisory role but it seems as though the Blue Bulls Company could not agree with their former coach on money and handing over complete control of all rugby affairs.

With Meyer unlikely to return to the franchise, speculation is rife that the board have been in talks with former Bulls attack and backline coach Todd Louden to take over and reports emanating from France are that former Irish hooker Bernard Jackman is also in the running for a coaching role at Loftus.

Louden has been credited with a lot of the work that went on behind the scenes in the Bulls triumphant 2007 Super Rugby campaign but his stay was short-lived, the Australian returning back to his country of birth after the departure of Meyer.

The Bulls are said to be courting the services of Louden who was last involved in Super Rugby two years ago in a role as an assistant coach to Tony McGahan at the Rebels before resigning, citing family responsibilities.

Jackman has been involved with French Top 14 club Grenoble as skills and forwards coach before being made head coach and the rumours of him talking to the Bulls have further fuelled speculation that the current forwards and backline coaches, Anton Leonard and David Manuel respectively, could be facing possible demotions from Super Rugby to the lower teams and age group rugby at Loftus.

Then there is the name of incumbent Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan, who had been shortlisted two years ago to take over as Super Rugby head coach when Frans Ludeke was fired but that deal fell through with Saru (South African Rugby Union) not wanting to let go of Van Graan’s services while his father’s, Barend van Graan is CEO, role at the Blue Bulls Company would have raised some eyebrows.

However, Van Graan could be the logical choice to take over as director of rugby having learnt his trade at the Bulls under Meyer and playing a pivotal role in their Super Rugby successes in 2007, 2009 and 2010.

Van Graan is highly regarded in the rugby world and was last year rumoured to have been in talks with English premiership outfit Bath to take up the role of director of rugby. That, though, was also stymied by his existing contract with Saru.

In the aftermath of the mauling by the Lions on Saturday, the under-fire Marais revealed that the board of directors had spoken to the Bulls management and players informing them of the imminent changes but no names had been mentioned.

“The board has been in talks with me this (last) week and I know exactly what is happening. They will make an announcement as soon as possible. I’m not in the dark."

Pretoria News

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