Jake White responds to Frans Steyn and Marcell Coetzee rumours
CAPE TOWN – Frans Steyn is not on his way to Pretoria just yet, but Marcell Coetzee could still bolster the Bulls ahead of their entry into PRO Rugby in Europe.
Bulls director of rugby Jake White responded to rumours of possible player signings after announcing his team to face Western Province in Saturday’s Currie Cup clash at Newlands (7pm), and only gave one definite answer: Cheetahs loose forward Junior Pokomela won’t be calling Loftus Versfeld his home ground anytime soon.
White said that the former SA Under-20 No 8, who has taken over the Cheetahs captaincy from the injured Ruan Pienaar in recent weeks, just won’t have a space to fill in the Bulls squad.
The current starting loose trio of captain Duane Vermeulen, Arno Botha and Marco van Staden are entrenched, while Elrigh Louw was the incumbent No 7 before injury struck. Nizaam Carr has been ever present from the bench, and Tim Agaba started at No 8 in the Super Rugby Unlocked opener against Griquas.
Then there is also the promising youngster Muller Uys, where after White also mentioned juniors such as WJ Steenkamp and Jaco Labuschagne who will still come through the system.
On Springbok centre Steyn, though, White didn’t entirely rule out a possible deal next year. “There’s no truth to that rumour (that Steyn is joining the Bulls). The reality is that Frans Steyn – I’ve coached him a lot – he’s got a contract with Free State. I’m not sure how things work there, but I’m sure there’s no doubt that he’d want to play some sort of rugby if he wants to play in that British Lions series for the Springboks,” the former Bok coach said.
“But that doesn’t mean that he’s going to the Bulls or we are going to bring him to us. The reality is, until all those details (about the SA teams in PRO Rugby) are in place… Let’s see once we get finality on when and who we are playing against, and where Free State fit in. I’m sure all those dominoes will fall into place.”
There is a better prospect that Bok loose forward Coetzee, who plays at No 8 these days for Ulster in Northern Ireland, could return to South Africa at the Bulls. The 29-year-old signed a three-year contract extension at the club last February, which will keep him at the Kingspan Stadium until the 2022 northern hemisphere summer.
Asked if he is in contact with the former Sharks star, White said: “As often as I can. I just ask him what it’s like to play in Europe and what it’s like at Ulster! Guys have got contracts, and we are busy trying to build a team – and we are in a very fortunate position where our shareholders are visionary and want to do well, so of course we are talking to anyone who we think comes out of contract at a certain time.
“Remember, legally you are not allowed to start interacting with players when they’ve got contracts. We’re not maybe talking to him, but talking about him to our board members and CEO, Edgar (Rathbone). Long-term, we want to create a good or special team, like Liverpool, and Man United, and Barcelona and Juventus, in Pretoria.
“There is no finality, but there is talk of us going into the northern hemisphere. There are a lot of other things at play – such as Free State’s involvement or whatever. All I can say is long-term, we will be going into Europe: that is what has been signed off by everybody.
“When that happens, I’m not sure about those dates. We’ve now got to prepare now as if we are going to Europe. I spend a lot of time watching those games – whether it is Cardiff versus Glasgow, Ospreys versus Ulster.
“And the reason for that is that we don’t know whom we are going to play, and I’d like to see the calibre of players and what the challenges are going to be when we play those teams in those conditions. We would play them at this time of the year in Europe, when it’s freezing cold in Scotland, etc.”