PRETORIA – The Bulls opening Super Rugby clash against former champions the Hurricanes will be the perfect yardstick to test their title aspirations says Springbok and Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant.
With plenty of expectation to see the Bulls awaken from their slumber under the guidance of former All Blacks coach John Mitchell, Gelant has cautioned against the ideal of seeing the three-time champions go from perennial flops to title contenders in one season.
The Bulls have had to endure a handful of seasons of failure and after the departure of coaches Frans Ludeke and Nollis Marais, there is an air of optimism at Loftus Versfeld that things are finally on the right track.
“We all know what happened and we will use that as a big motivation to get us through this year. We also have to put that behind us while using it as motivation. We must now focus on the processes. We won’t go from where we were to Super Rugby champions in the first round but we know where we are heading to. It is all about us, we must follow the processes that we have put in place,” said Gelant.
But the enormity of the clash against the New Zealanders in two weeks’ time has not escaped the Bulls fullback and Gelant remains wary of how dangerous the Hurricanes will be especially at full strength and living off the momentum of the past three years and the big-name players in their side.
“Former Super Rugby champions, played in the semi-finals last year, credit to them. Great competition for us, great players in Beauden Barrett and all of them. What a great challenge for us to start it off.” “That is where preparation meets competition and it will be the ultimate challenge for us as a team and the union going forward. We have individual goals but it is going to be about us as a team and how we go against a team that has been consistent for a few years,” Gelant added.
While the Bulls will be quietly confident going into this year’s Super Rugby campaign, the Hurricanes will have to approach the encounter with some caution after the likes of Gelant and his Springbok teammates put on a bit of a show in their first outing of the year in the 21-12 win against the Jaguares at Loftus on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Gelant, who scored a try in his first few minutes on the field, is relishing the prospect of playing in the more familiar position of fullback.
“Ja I think I was in the right place at the right time getting that offload from Jesse. But obviously it is the first one back... and a lot of mistakes. You can see that it’s been a long time since we were on the field,” said Gelant.
“I’m always about the performance of now and the next one to come. Saturday wasn’t perfect and that is where my mindset is and how I am as a player. 2017 was a good year but I’m already onto the next thing. I want to try to achieve bigger things.”
Amongst the big things that Gelant wants to achieve in the next season or two will be to cement his place as the No 1 fullback at the Bulls and for the Springboks having played both of his international caps on the wing.
Secondly, Gelant, still young but already considered a senior in the Bulls set-up, is eager to mentor some of the younger players who will be making their Super Rugby debuts in the hope that they too will build a formidable outfit to emulate the feats of the Bulls team that dominated Super Rugby in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
“It is strange to be called a senior now with all these young guys around like Embrose (Papier), Manie (Libbok) and the 20 and 21-year-olds, it’s a bit strange. It is the third season and we want to keep on growing and keep on building on what we have. I want to grow as a player and for me to play fullback for the union for a few more years and obviously going to represent the national team at fullback. There’s a lot of challenges but for me as a senior, I want to be a part of something that is going to be big in Blue Bulls rugby,” Gelant concluded.