Bulls’ Marco van Staden ready for ‘one more step’ after all the hard knocks

Vodacom Bulls' Marco van Staden and Emirates Lions' Marius Louw battle for the ball during the United Rugby Championship, at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria

Springbok and Bulls stalwart Marco van Staden (pictured with the ball) said that despite feeling back to his usual self and being cleared to play, Leicester chose not to select him. Picture: Steve Haag Sports/INPHO/Shutterstock

Published Jan 31, 2024


Marco van Staden is one of the real hard men of South African rugby.

He has always been regarded as a highly physical competitor, and even has the fitting nickname “Eskom” – because when he tackles you, it’s “lights out”.

But there is another reason the 28-year-old puts his body on the line for the Bulls and Springboks in every minute on the pitch: he nearly lost it all.

Van Staden was in the form of his life and achieved great success with the Bulls in the 2020/21 Covid-affected season, and was part of the Bok squad.

Move abroad

Then he and wife Chanel opted to move to England, with Van Staden signing for Leicester Tigers. After the initial excitement, things became difficult for the openside flank after a couple of layoffs due to concussion caused by head knocks in matches.

In an interview with the Bulls on their official YouTube channel this week, Van Staden said that despite feeling back to his usual self and being cleared to play, Leicester chose not to select him.

That led to months of being sidelined before he was eventually released from his contract in July 2022, and the Bulls decided to give him another chance.

“It was more politics with the club, but I don’t want to go there. I would’ve liked to play more, and that season, they won the Premiership as well,” Van Staden said.

“I had to leave the club, and the rest of the rugby world thought I struggled with concussion, which was not the case. I was cleared to play, but everyone was a bit sceptical, so it was difficult to get into (the team).

“I wanted to come back home after the year we had … My wife just said we have to come back home to our family, and fortunately, I signed again with the Bulls.

“We approached the Bulls to come back. They were sceptical, but after everything was proven, that everything was fine, they were happy.

“I hadn’t played rugby for nine months, but I felt perfectly fine. It’s not a knee injury where you can feel I can’t play. I trained every day at the Tigers – I wasn’t allowed to play, but I trained fully …

“So, I was really looking forward to playing again. The journey gains you faith. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Me coming back to the Bulls, I think if it wasn’t for that, I might not have gone to the World Cup.”

The right time

Van Staden has been outstanding for the Bulls since, and believes that this season is the time for the Pretoria outfit to take inspiration from the Springboks and win some trophies.

“I think there is something different this season, and I hope the environment we have, the team, coaching staff – everything that’s being done for us outside of the game – the best we can do is win the URC. I think the union deserves it,” said the 18-Test fetcher-flank, who also filled in at hooker in last year’s World Cup.

“When Coach Jake (White) started building and building and building, we won the Currie Cup twice and the Super Rugby Unlocked, and we went to the final of the Rainbow Cup and the final of the URC.

“But I think that we just need that one more step. One of the other (goals) is to compete fully in the Champions Cup – and I think we can …

“Like the Springboks changed South Africa, I think we can change Pretoria. We definitely have the capacity to do it.

“For me, I just want to give my best for the team with every chance I get. It can be taken away from you very quickly.

“You don’t realise it, but it can be taken away very quickly – rugby can stop at any time. That’s what I realised that side (at Leicester).”


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