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Former Springbok assistant Gert Smal confirmed as Bulls coach for Currie Cup

FILE - Gert Smal during his time at the Stormers. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

FILE - Gert Smal during his time at the Stormers. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Dec 3, 2021

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Cape Town – The Bulls have resorted to picking a new head coach to take charge of their Currie Cup team next year, with the experienced Gert Smal installed on Friday.

The Pretoria-based union have won the last two tournaments under director of rugby Jake White, who said earlier this week that the overlapping between the Currie Cup and the United Rugby Championship necessitates having to appoint a separate coaching staff for each competition.

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Smal is a long-time colleague of White, having been his right-hand man at the Springboks as the forwards coach between 2004 and 2007, while he caught up with the former Bok boss again in Japan at Toyota Verblitz, again as a forwards coach, in 2019.

Since White joined the Bulls in March 2020, Smal has continued at Verblitz under director of rugby Steve Hansen and head coach Simon Cron, but has now decided to head home.

Smal, who will turn 60 later in December, has a long history in South African domestic rugby as a coach, where he started at the Border Bulldogs in 1998 after retiring as a player for Western Province in 1993.

He returned to Newlands as the WP head coach in 2000, where they won two consecutive Currie Cup titles, before he took charge of the Stormers in 2003.

Smal’s crowning glory as a coach was winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup as the Bok forwards coach, where after he headed to Ireland in 2008 to become that nation’s forwards coach, where he remained until 2013.

The former blindside flank moved to Cape Town again, and was appointed as the WP director of rugby in 2014. He was in charge at Newlands until 2018, and then joined White in Japan in 2019.

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Smal was also close to getting the Springbok head coach job in 2016, but his former Bok coaching colleague Allister Coetzee was appointed instead.

Now Smal will hope to continue the Bulls success in the Currie Cup.

“We are hard at work in making sure that our Currie Cup campaign is on track. We’ve won Currie Cups twice in a row, and we take it very, very seriously. So, whatever date it starts or competition we’re in, we take it very seriously,” White said this week.

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“We are not going to let a chance to win three Currie Cups in a row just to be taken for granted.

“The juggling act is that at the same time from January, there is the Currie Cup, URC and Under-20 rugby. So, it’s going to be quite interesting to see how we can balance it, as you are going to have lots and lots of coaches around. You don’t want that to confuse the players, so you have to streamline it. There is a bit of work that has to be done to get the best out of the group.

“You could play the Sharks this weekend and next weekend, and you could end up playing the same team, but they will be coached by different coaches because they are different competitions.”

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At the moment, the URC Bulls team are set to face Zebre in Italy on January 8, and then return to South Africa to take on the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on January 29.

After that, there is a game against the Stormers (February 5 in Cape Town), with an open weekend as they were supposed to play against the Sharks in Durban on February 12 – that game is taking place this Friday at Kings Park.

Then there is a length break to the home match against the Stormers in Pretoria on March 5.

But all of that could change, due to the current Covid-19 travel restrictions.

@ashfakmohamed

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