Cape Town – While signing England international lock Charlie Ewels is a “double win” for the Bulls, director of rugby Jake White doesn’t think it will result in an influx of foreign players looking to join South African teams in future.
The Bulls confirmed on Thursday that the 27-year-old second-rower will move to Pretoria on a short-term deal until the end of the season as he makes his return from a serious ACL knee injury.
Ewels is trying to find some form and match-fitness in a bid to impress England coach Steve Borthwick and force his way into the Rugby World Cup squad, and White sees real benefit for the Bulls.
He won’t be involved in either the Currie Cup game against the Sharks or the URC clash against Zebre this weekend due to a delay with paperwork, with White adding on Thursday that “I don’t think he is allowed to play in the URC”.
“It’s a bit of a double win. Firstly, we get a player like him who has played 30 Tests for England, 111 games for Bath, has captained the England junior side and won a Junior World Cup. So, he’s got a lot of experience, and very good in the lineout – so that’s a win for us,” the former Springbok coach said.
“For him, he’s trying very hard to get into the World Cup set-up, and he needs to play some games and get some rugby under his belt. Hopefully we can get the two married together – he is a gain for us, and hopefully we can help him play good rugby and get himself into the mix for the World Cup.”
South African rugby has seen a number of internationals playing locally over the years, with the most famous recent cases being Australian centre Ben Tapuai at the Sharks and Welsh midfielder Jamie Roberts at the Stormers.
Welcome to Loftus Charlie Ewels 🔥 pic.twitter.com/IXwiL0p93Z— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) April 13, 2023
But White doesn’t believe that Ewels’ arrival in Pretoria is the start of something bigger in that regard.
“I think this is an extraordinary case. This is about a guy who is 27 years old, dying to get into the World Cup squad, has a relationship with us through people we know at Bath (such as head coach Johann van Graan),” he said.
“He wants to play rugby, and we are just happy to have him here. I don’t think this is the way forward. I can’t see international players wanting to come and play here when they can earn the salaries they earn overseas.
“I don’t think it would be fair, with the way we make up our squads, to pick all these overseas players here. We already have restrictive numbers, transformation charters we’ve got to put in place… I can’t see there’s going to be an abundance of overseas players coming into our set-up.
“I think this is a very unique situation, and obviously one that we would like to use in our favour.”