PRETORIA – What had been a crisis on the field has spilled over into the boardroom with the Blue Bulls Company (BBC) facing possible litigation while tackling allegations of racism and a purge of black management.
After successfully securing the prized signature of former All Blacks and Lions coach John Mitchell as executive for rugby in the hope that the New Zealander will fix all of their on-field problems, the BBC faces a battle from within.
This comes after the dismissal of former Springbok flank and team manager Tim Dlulane, Super Rugby defence coach Pine Pienaar, former Bulls and Junior Springbok centre and Under-19 head coach Dewey Swartbooi, former Bulls flank and Under-19 assistant coach Denzil Frans and junior teams manager Nqubeko Zulu this week.
In 2012, Pienaar coached the Bulls to a semi-final loss after taking over a week before the start of the competition with no management staff, but was shifted to defence coach by former Bulls coach Frans Ludeke until being deemed surplus to requirements under Mitchell.
Frans has been involved in many Bulls junior interprovincial winning sides since retiring as a player and won two Vodacom Cup and two Varsity Cup titles with the Blue Bulls and Tuks after having captained the last Merit A side and won that competition unbeaten with the late Peter Maimane the head coach.
Maimane left the Bulls after not being recognised for his coaching credentials and successes on the field with various Bulls teams, with his last job being technical analyst for the Springboks prior to his passing away in 2012.
The Bulls have also had the likes of former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers serve as assistant coach in Super Rugby along with former SA Under-23 coach Alfred Mzizi, but the duo didn’t last more than two seasons at Loftus Versfeld.
Dlulane has been outspoken in his criticism of how the BBC have handled the restructuring process, particularly high performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg and CEO Barend van Graan, and has questioned why it is mainly black management who had their jobs made redundant.
Dlulane played Super Rugby and Currie Cup for the Bulls before breaking his neck against the Golden Lions in 2005 and thereafter was appointed manager of the junior teams, including the then Vodacom Cup side.
Three years ago he became the first black manager of the Bulls’ Super Rugby and Currie Cup teams in a move seen as a positive step for transformation after he had also served as SA U20 manager.
But Dlulane didn’t spare his former employers and questioned their ability to bring about real transformation considering they have only one black member of management with the Currie Cup side in skills coach Hayden Groepes, while David Manuel has been demoted from Super Rugby assistant coach to Under-21 head coach.
“I want to know why us. We have done our jobs well. What about those people who have failed in their jobs. But more than anything it makes me question whether the Bulls are serious about transformation,” said Dlulane.
But Van Graan hit back saying the BBC are committed to transformation and that he still runs the show at Loftus and not Janse van Rensburg, who is rumoured to replace Dlulane as team manager.
“The company fully supports the SA Rugby strategic transformation plan,” Van Graan said yesterday.
“The BBC creates opportunities for talented players despite their race or colour. Thirty-six percent of our contracted players are black.
“The High Performance Division, after the redundancy of staff, now consists of 17 black and 16 white management staff. More than 51 percent of the staff is black.”