CAPE TOWN – The Bulls made somewhat of a surprise call on Friday in naming Lood de Jager as their captain for the 2019 Super Rugby tournament.
In addition, there were a number of new appointments in the team management headed by director of rugby Alan Zondagh and head coach Pote Human.
Former assistant Pine Pienaar returns as the defence coach, having been dismissed as part of a restructuring process under John Mitchell in late 2017.
Since then, Pienaar has been the director of sport at Waterkloof High, while also operating as a consultant to the Cheetahs, from their juniors to the PRO14 side.
There are a number of familiar faces in the Bulls set-up, including Anton Leonard as the lineout specialist, Hayden Groepes as the skills and kicking coach, and John-William Meyer as the technical analyst.
But perhaps the most significant arrival is that of former WP and Stormers flyhalf Chris Rossouw as the backline and attack coach.
The brother of ex-Springbok wing Pieter Rossouw, Chris Rossouw made his name as a coach at Maties from 2012 to 2016, after which he became the WP Under-21 assistant coach.
He picked up international experience as part of the Namibian national team in 2017, and moved on to the SAS Institute in Stellenbosch as the head coach.
The Bulls will hope that Rossouw’s creativity as a player will come through in his coaching in order to continue the metamorphosis that the Pretoria side have gone through under Mitchell initially, and which carried on with Human in the Currie Cup last year.
A scrum and maul specialist coach will be named shortly.
The most eye-catching announcement on Friday, though, was that of Springbok lock De Jager as the skipper.
Having missed most of the 2018 Test season through a torn pectoral muscle he sustained on Bulls duty in May, De Jager only returned to the field on the Bok November tour against England at Twickenham.
Handré Pollard, who led the Bulls at times in 2018 when Burger Odendaal was not available, has been chosen as the vice-captain this year.
“We’ve had some great leaders at Loftus, and often worked with a core group of guys that contributed to the leadership,” Human said on Friday.
The #BullsFamily confirms Springboks, Lood de Jager and Handre Pollard, as Vodacom Super Rugby captain and vice-captain respectively.— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) January 4, 2019
“We are once again spoilt for choice with guys like Burger Odendaal, Hanro Liebenberg, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Brits, Ruan Steenkamp, Travis Ismaiel and Jesse Kriel, to mention a few.
“However, Lood has grown into an inspirational leader, even during a time when he didn’t play much rugby, and I am positive that he will have the full support of everybody at Loftus.”@ashfakmohamed