Griquas scrumhalf Zak Burger joins Bulls as Jansen van Vuren stays at centre
CAPE TOWN – Ivan van Zyl will leave a gaping hole at the Bulls once he joins Saracens at the end of June, but that won’t necessarily mean that Marco Jansen van Vuren will go back to scrumhalf.
Springbok halfback Van Zyl will still be available to the Pretoria side for the first few months of the Rainbow Cup in Europe, which kicks off in mid-April, but White will give fellow Test No 9 Embrose Papier a chance to establish himself as the first-choice scrumhalf in the Preparation Series.
Papier will partner flyhalf Chris Smith in Sunday’s game against Eastern Province at Loftus Versfeld (3pm kickoff), while last year’s Under-21 scrumhalf Keagan Johannes will come on off the bench.
But while the latter is sure to be part of the Bulls’ future, Papier also needs back-up for the Rainbow Cup, and that has now been secured in the shape of Griquas’ Zak Burger.
The Bulls announced on Friday evening that Burger, who led the Kimberley side during the Currie Cup, will arrive at Loftus Versfeld on March 1 on a three-year contract.
“Zak has had a phenomenal last few months in Kimberley, and we’re keen to add his ability to the collective depth at Loftus. He has consistently performed for the Peacock Blues, and his acquisition is exactly the type of player we want to attract to Loftus,” Bulls director of rugby Jake White said in a statement.
White does also have the 24-year-old Jansen van Vuren in the group – a former SA Schools and SA Under-20 scrumhalf who has been helping out at centre and wing since White took charge at Loftus last year.
The former Springbok coach, though, feels that the tall Hoërskool Transvalia product won’t have to shift closer to the scrum to fill the void left by Van Zyl.
There have been reports that another Bok, Francois Hougaard, has been offered a deal to return to the Bulls from Worcester Warriors in England. And while White did not name Hougaard during a press conference on Friday, he did state that scrumhalf reinforcements will arrive in Pretoria soon.
“If I see him (Jansen van Vuren) as a back-up nine, with two other nines that we are going to get – we are obviously going to sign a couple of nines, which have not been announced yet – but we are getting some nines in the place of Ivan,” White said earlier on Friday.
“Once I see we are covered at nine, then I will use him as an outside back. But if I play him at nine and think he can cover both, then we don’t need to contract a fourth or fifth halfback.”
Someone like the nifty Johannes, then, will hope to make the most of his opportunity against EP on Sunday to stay in the senior squad mix, while White mentioned that another Under-21 scrumhalf in Bernard van der Linde will also get an opportunity in the Preparation Series.
Meanwhile, good news for lock Walt Steenkamp is that he may return to action some time in April. The former Cheetahs stalwart contracted Covid-19 late last year, and subsequently had heart surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat.
“Walt Steenkamp can see the specialist again in the middle of March about his heartbeat. And at this stage, it looks positive. If they check it again and everything is fine, then he can start training seriously in the beginning of April, and then maybe start playing in mid-April again,” White said.
Loose forward Muller Uys is also expected back from a shoulder injury in two weeks’ time.