PRETORIA – If it is Super Rugby that the Bulls are hoping to win then they might be forced to look for inspiration from their players, having endured three consecutive seasons of coaching instability.
The players have seemingly taken on the responsibility of bringing back the glory days to Loftus according to Springbok scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl.
Having gone through turbulent times since the departures of head coaches Nollis Marais and John Mitchell Van Zyl says the players are all behind new coach Pote Human and his backroom staff, but whether the Bulls are up for the challenge will lie with the new players they have been able to gather which includes Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Brits and Rosko Specman.
“It is ideal to have one person as a constant, but we have worked for a long time with coach Pote and are excited about working with him and what he brings to the table and the people he has brought in as well.
He is not new to the set-up because we also worked with him last year so it won’t be a huge shift. We also have a few senior players in the group and, as players, we must take some of the responsibility and not place all the pressure on the coach.
We must work together as players to make sure we take this franchise forward,” said Van Zyl.
At the heart of what should be a Bulls resurgence this year is the fact that they no longer possess a bunch of inexperienced youngsters, and instead now have an established group of players that includes the nucleus of the Bok team.
While the Bulls may have been blessed with experience within the coaching ranks in the years when they dominated Super Rugby in 2007, 2009 and 2010 their strength has always been in possessing experienced world-class players.
The current crop of players are littered with world-class pedigree with a handful of them having made their Bok debuts last year while the experience of Vermeulen, Brits, captain Lood de Jager, vice-captain Handre Pollard, Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant could prove to be an ace for a team with lofty ambitions.
“We have a wonderful group of players to do really well in Super Rugby this year. With coach Pote at the helm and all of us having so much respect for him we have the belief in him and his decisions. We also have so much depth especially with many guys now in their third and fourth Super Rugby seasons, so it will be nothing new to us.
And it helps that some of the guys like RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins also made their Springbok debuts so it brings about a lot of confidence and we are really excited about the season ahead,” Van Zyl said.
For Van Zyl, this year will be more demanding than last year as he seeks to cement his place in the national team and secure a spot for the World Cup in Japan.
It will certainly take a Herculean effort from the former Affies pupil, Van Zyl, to better the year he had last year when he made his Bok debut, his first start for the Bulls at Super Rugby level while also sharing the duties at No 9 at the Bulls and Springboks with teammate Embrose Papier.
“Obviously the highlight will be making my Springbok debut,” said Van Zyl
“You learn so much while you there playing and working with all those players and coaches as well. You take a lot of confidence from there coming into Super Rugby this year and feeling like you are part of the mix and looking forward to having a full Super Rugby season.
It gives me a lot of confidence and boosts me to work that much harder knowing it is something I achieved last year and the one place I want to be again this year and that motivates me to work harder.”@Vata_Ngobeni