Pretoria – In a week that has to be one of the most painful since Frans Ludeke took over the reins of the Bulls at the end of 2007, there was a silver lining in the dark cloud that continues to hang over Loftus Versfeld with confirmation that Springboks and Cheetahs scrumhalf Piet van Zyl will be joining the Bulls at the end of the year.
Van Zyl’s move was reported in the Pretoria News a week after the nuggety scrumhalf had made his Springbok debut against Scotland in Nelspruit in June but the Bulls had remained cagey about the move because of the interest for Van Zyl from other unions.
With another Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak leaving for France, the Bulls had been desperate to find a replacement in time for next year’s Super Rugby season.
Van Zyl will join the Bulls at the beginning of November after concluding his contract with the Cheetahs and will stay at Loftus over the next two years.
“Piet is an exciting youngster who brings a lot of energy and commitment to the field. His style of play will suit us and I am convinced that he will blossom in our playing style and structure. We have lost one Springbok in Jano Vermaak, so to replace him with another in Piet is fantastic for our depth,” Ludeke said yesterday.
While Van Zyl’s imminent arrival at Loftus would have been well received at the Bulls, it would have only served to mask the pain that still exists after the Bulls were cruelly knocked out in the semifinals of the Super Rugby competition by the Brumbies and them having to bid farewell to many of their stalwarts and stars this week.
The disappointing end to the Bulls Super Rugby campaign also brought the curtain down on some illustrious careers for a handful of individuals who had played a hand in the success of the Bulls in recent years.
On Monday, the most capped Bulls Super rugby player Morne Steyn (Stade Francais) along with Dewald Potgieter (Yamaha RFC), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Toulouse), Vermaak (Toulouse), Zane Kirchner (Leinster) and Jacques Potgieter (Fukuoka Sanix Blues and Waratahs) all walked out of Loftus for the last time as Bulls players as they look to take up lucrative offers abroad next month.
Last month, it was the turn of long time Bulls servant and Springbok centre Wynand Olivier to leave the kraal as he went to France to join Montpellier and was soon followed by Springbok lock Juandre Kruger who has also joined a French club in Racing Metro.
Ludeke, though, believes the team will continue to do well without the departing players and that it was through their valuable contribution that the Bulls have managed to win two Super Rugby titles and a Currie Cup trophy in the past six years.
The Bulls coach conceded that players leaving was beyond his control and that of the union and it was difficult for them to compete against the Japanese Yen and the Euro while he could not fulfil the Springbok aspirations of certain players.
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