PRETORIA – The winds of change are blowing through Loftus Versfeld after it was confirmed yesterday that chief executive officer Barend van Graan is stepping down.
The 66-year-old administrator, Van Graan, who has been part of the Bulls since 1983 will be vacating his post at the beginning of next year in what is seen as a new broom sweeping clean under Blue Bulls Rugby Union interim president Willem Strauss.
Van Graan was supposed to step down two years ago from his current position but at the bequest of the BBC board of directors was afforded a four year extension in 2015 which was one of the reasons that led to the early termination of former president Gert Wessels tenure amidst financial mismanagement allegations.
While Van Graan’s last years at Loftus have seen the professional sides suffer and not win any meaningful silverware since their 2010 Super Rugby triumph, it has been under Van Graan’s reign that the Bulls have transformed their personnel in the office and also employed the first foreign coach in John Mitchell last year.
Strauss paid tribute to Van Graan and his contribution to the Bulls but stated that it is time for new blood to take over in the capital in order to move the union and company forward.
“Barend is not only the leader of the Blue Bulls Company but also a mentor to his management, staff and players. He has embedded a proud culture and heritage, and there is no doubt that his legacy will still inspire us as we move forward,” said Strauss in a statement yesterday.
“Even though it will be sad to see him go, we respect his decision to step back and allow new blood to come in and take over the reins. We would like to sincerely wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
Van Graan reigned over one of the most successful eras in modern day rugby when the Bulls dominated domestic and Super Rugby winning six Currie Cup and three Super Rugby titles between 2002 and 2010 in what can only be described as the golden era of Bulls and South African rugby.
Van Graan’s successor is yet to be announced even though there are already a few prominent names within South Africa’s rugby fraternity whie Van Graan was unwilling to give comment on his imminent departure.
The Bulls are expected to make another huge announcement in the coming weeks on their big name signings for next year and further changes within their management.