What do a "Hyena", a "Shaggy Dog" and a "Maori" have in common? Or for that matter a "Shark", a "Samurai" and "Celeb"?

Nothing, unless you are looking at a bunch of Bulls - Blue Bulls, that is.

Pretoria's favourite rugby team are legends in their own right, but the top players who call Loftus Versfeld home at the moment have had an interesting routine of branding each other with some strange, and often hilarious, nickname that gives the outsider a brief glimpse into the personalities of the players.

In a team set-up like the Bulls, the players often have no choice on the nicknames they are saddled with. Some come from their teammates, some are inherited from their schooldays and others come without any choice, but by an incident or two that follows their path through their days at Loftus Versfeld.

Often journalists are perplexed by the Bulls Press conferences, when the coach talks about hoping that "Dirkie" will play, that "Vollie" may be on the bench and that "Haai" (Shark) will be in the midfield.

A quick translation will give you Derick ("Dirkie") Hougaard, Morne ("Vollie") Steyn and JP Nel - who came straight from Western Province to the Bulls at a junior level - strangely inherits the "Shark" likeness for a reason his team-mates simply won't devulge.

According to team manager Wynie Strydom, whose red hair has earned him the nickname "Rooi Generaal" ("Red General") or "Duracell" (the battery with the copper top), every one at the Bulls has a nickname.

"It usually happens naturally when a player comes into the team and, most times, it is because of an incident that happens to the player. It can also change, as someone like Wynand Olivier has had several nicknames," Strydom explains.

The blond Springbok's current nom de plume is "Wyntand", a play on his name, but he has been "Koplig" ("Headlight") and even "Nivea Man" for his grooming techniques.

Not even the Springbok stalwarts are immune - Victor Matfield is "Fai", Bakkies Botha goes under the name "Bakke" while Fourie du Preez is nicknamed "Vuuritjie" ("Flame") for his heated, passionate play.

Bryan Habana has been dubbed "Klein Madiba" ("Little Madiba") by his teammates. "It is because he talks so much, and sometimes he does great impressions of Madiba as well," Strydom says.

As you go down the list, there are some stranger ones, which defy explanation such as "Danabana" (Danie Rossouw), "Gaylord" (Hottie Louw), "Tamang" (Hilton Lobberts), Rocky (Wessel Roux), "Maori" (Danwell Demas), "Hond" (Ruan "Dog" Vermeulen) and "Amatoelibird" (Akona Ndungane).

Others are more descriptive, such as Marius Delport being "Shaggy Dog" for his hairstyle, Pedrie Wannenburg taking the nickname "Celeb" for his appearances in the social pages of magazines, John Mametsa's "Samurai" for his kamikaze style of play and Johan Roets is known as "Happy" for his constant smile on and off the field.

Current Blue Bulls captain Gary Botha is called "Tjoppies" for his love of lamb chops.

The coaches aren''t immune either, with head coach Heyneke Meyer better known in the team circles as "Vince" for his love of quoting famous Gridiron coach Vince Lombardi in his motivation speeches. So whether it is a "Hyena" (Derick Kuun), a "Model" (Stefan Basson) or simply "Johnny English" (Jaco Engels), these Bulls are a strange family, but one which is all too happy to share a lighter side of things with each other.