Jake White: Papier, Goosen, Stravino and Willemse can make a hell of a Bulls backline
CAPE TOWN – They’ve already conquered South Africa, and now the Bulls are getting ready to conquer Europe.
And to be able to do that, their team will soon have an array of top-class talent – a bunch of ‘galacticos’, if you like.
Now that he is back coaching in South Africa again, Jake White is furiously filling up his trophy cabinet. The Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup titles were just the starters for the main course: the PRO16, which will have the Rainbow Cup as its curtain-raiser.
The team White is assembling is getting more powerful by the day. He already had Duane Vermeulen, Morné Steyn and Trevor Nyakane in the mix last season, and brought through the likes of Stedman Gans, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Elrigh Louw and Ruan Nortjé – in addition to the experienced bunch of Lizo Gqoboka, Cornal Hendricks, Marco van Staden and Ivan van Zyl.
The latter duo are leaving Loftus Versfeld at the end of June for England, but coming soon to Pretoria are Marcell Coetzee (from Ulster in Northern Ireland), probably Johan Goosen (from Montpellier in France) and possibly Damian Willemse (Stormers) – which means reserves such as Clinton Swart will have to find another team.
“If you consider we could get Damian (Willemse) and we could get Johan Goosen, then what are the chances that you are going to use Clinton (Swart) as a 10-12 above Damian, Goosen, Chris Smith or Cornal Hendricks? It’s not likely that you are going to play him anywhere in the inside backs. My mind is made up (on letting Swart go),” White said after naming an unchanged starting line-up to face the Pumas in Mbombela on Tuesday (7pm kickoff).
“It’s no secret – we are looking at Damian Willemse, who can play cover 10, 12 and 15. Johan Goosen is coming and he can play 10 and 12 and 15.
“A guy like Stravino Jacobs can play centre – I have no doubt in my mind about that. He could be a nice, explosive centre. Madosh (Tambwe) on the wing, Travis Ismaiel on the wing. Gio Aplon comes back (from injury) and plays 15, and David Kriel can move to 13 or wing. We are looking at a couple of high-profile players in those positions.
“There is nothing that stops us from playing Embrose (Papier) at nine, Goosen at 10, Cornal at 12, Stedman at 13, Damian Willemse at 15 – it’s a hell of a backline, if you think about it. Kurt-Lee Arendse on the wing, Stravino on the other wing… The permutations of picking different sorts of backlines, it just depends on who you’re getting.”
The signing spree – backed by the deep pockets of Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert – won’t end there. There have been reports of a Bulls bid for Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi, while White wants another hybrid lock too.
“The other position is lock – we are looking at maybe getting one or two locks that we think can strengthen our squad. Maybe a four lock that can double up as a seven flanker, because we have Elrigh Louw, who we rate very highly. And Sintu Manjezi, who we still think can go from four to seven,” the former Bok coach said.
Phew – get ready, Europe. The running of the Bulls is coming your way soon…