Having 57 players in a rugby squad may seem excessive, but after what happened to the Bulls last season, director of rugby Jake White is leaving no stone unturned to bring trophies back to Loftus.
Injuries, illnesses and coaching issues all contributed to the Pretoria side falling short in the Champions Cup (last 16), United Rugby Championship (quarter-finals) and Currie Cup (semi-finals), and White has covered all his bases with 17 coaches, sports scientists and other support personnel as well.
Some of the big-name signings are Springboks Willie le Roux, Wilco Louw and Akker van der Merwe, as well as coaches such as Andries Bekker, Gary Gold and Kennedy Tsimba.
“There is a special feeling in the air at Loftus at the moment, perhaps because we are all enjoying our pre-season work and collectively looking forward to what promises to be an exciting season of rugby ahead,” White said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Our new recruits have already added fresh energy to our base, and they have been warmly welcomed by the rest of the group, which is wonderful as we look to build a wonderful brotherhood among all the players and management alike.
“We know the season will be long, and to keep consistency all the way through will be vital for our campaign. And this is why we have expanded our squad, to make sure we are not found wanting in certain periods, and also be able to make like-for-like replacements when need be.
“Our recruitment has been intentional in making sure we find additional resources that will be able to help us get as close as possible to the goals and targets that we have in place.
“Some of the guys joining us also bring international experience, which will bode well for the season ahead.
“Fortunately, the players also have an experienced coaching unit to tap into and try to learn as much as they can, so that they are in a better place and have that competitive advantage compared to their opponents in the new season.”
Meanwhile, Springbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse was the big winner at the Bulls Awards on Tuesday, where he scooped up five gongs: Players’ Player of the Year, Fans’ Player of the Year, Player of the Year, Champions Cup Backline Player of the Year and Champions Cup Player of the Year.
Forwards (36): Akker van der Merwe, Cameron Hanekom, Cyle Brink, Dylan Smith, Deon Slabbert, Elrigh Louw, Francois Klopper, Gerhard Steenekamp, Jacques du Plessis, Jacques van Rooyen, Jannes Kirsten, Janko Swanepoel, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, JF van Heerden, Joe van Zyl, Johan Grobbelaar, Khutha Mchunu, Marcell Coetzee, Marco van Staden, Merwe Olivier, Mihlali Mosi, Mornay Smith, Mpilo Gumede, Muller Uys, Nizaam Carr, Phumzile Maqondwana, Reinhardt Ludwig, Robert Hunt, Ruan Nortje, Ruan Vermaak, Sebastian Lombard, Simphiwe Matanzima, Tiaan Lange, Tielman Nieuwoudt, Wilco Louw, WJ Steenkamp
Backs (25): Bernard van der Linde, Canan Moodie, Chris Barend Smit, Chris Smith, Cornal Hendricks, David Kriel, Devon Williams, Embrose Papier, Harold Vorster, Henry Immelman, Jaco van der Walt, Johan Goosen, Kabelo Mokwena, Keagan Johannes, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Lionel Mapoe, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Sibongile Novuka, Sebastian de Klerk, Sergeal Petersen, Stedman Gans, Stravino Jacobs, Wandisile Simelane, Willie le Roux, Zak Burger
Bulls Management: Director of Rugby: Jake White. Head of technical: John-William Meyer. Assistant coaches: Andries Bekker, Chris Rossouw, Gary Gold, Jean Tiedt, Kennedy Tsimba, Phiwe Nomlomo, Werner Kruger
Medical: Dr Herman Rossouw, head of medical; Dr Henning Gericke, sports psychologist; Lance Lammetjies, physiotherapist; Darryn Berry, physiotherapist. Sports science: Andre Volsteedt, head of strength and conditioning; Stephen Plummer, rehab specialist; Yusuf Vahed, sports scientist
Operations: Elias Bennett, team manager; Simon Dyidi, assistant team manager