Sport / Rugby

Heinz Schenk
4 minute read
15 Feb 2017
3:41 pm

Nyakane to Kriel: How does the Bulls squad stack up?

Heinz Schenk

Nollis Marais is the first of the local coaches to reveal his hand for this year's campaign. Here's what his depth looks like.

Is 2017 the year the Bulls Bok prop Trevor Nyakane really flourishes? Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images.

The Bulls on Wednesday became the first of the local franchises to name their final squad for this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

Despite losing many established stars over the past few years, the men from Pretoria still boast 12 Springboks in their squad of 46.

Add that to an exciting group of youngsters that have started to find their feet under coach Nollis Marais and the Bulls have a decent platform to build on this season.

But what does their depth really look like?

Fullbacks: Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Ulrich Beyers

This is an interesting position for Marais.

Jesse Kriel, who gained his Springbok colours on the back of his performances in the No 15 jersey, has been promised a run as the last line of defence.

Many are excited by this as he’s stuttered a bit as a centre.

However, Warrick Gelant impressed mightily during the pre-season and looked a brilliant runner before injury struck early last year.

Will Marais opt to shift Kriel back to outside centre to accommodate him?

Ulrich Beyers provides capable if unfashionale back-up.

Verdict: Mouthwatering

Wings: Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Duncan Matthews, Kefentse Mahlo, Rabs Maxwane, Jade Stighling

There’s a Ruan Combrinck-Courtnall Skosan vibe between Jamba Ulengo and Travis Ismaiel.

They complement each other well because, in essence, the way they play are opposite to each other.

Marais will surely stick to them as his first-choice pair as they are intimately familiar with the Bulls’ pattern.

The rest are exciting options but they lack experience … badly to be honest.

Verdict: Promising but unproven

Centres: Jan Serfontein, Burger Odendaal, Johnny Kotze, Dries Swanepoel, JT Jackson

The dynamic in this position can change if Marais decides to pick Jesse Kriel in midfield instead of at fullback.

To be honest, it would be rather unfair on the rest of the group if that were to happen.

Jan Serfontein is a potentially world-class organiser and defender at inside centre and could combine well with the hard-running Johnny Kotze as his partner – a new recruit from the Stormers.

Burger Odendaal and Dries Swanepoel are used to playing with each other at Currie Cup level and would be able deputies.

There are definitely options in this area for the Bulls’ brains trust to play with.

Verdict: Accomplished and versatile

Flyhalves: Handre Pollard, Tian Schoeman, Francois Brummer, Tony Jantjies

There’s not much to say about this position when Handre Pollard is present.

He is, after all, the captain too.

Tian Schoeman offers more as an attacking option but is far more unpredictable than the steady Francois Brummer.

Verdict: No need for depth is Pollard stays fit

Scrumhalves: Rudy Paige, Piet van Zyl, Ivan van Zyl, Andre Warner

Any of the first three names could probably stake a claim for a starting berth, even if Rudy Paige is a Springbok.

Competition is never a bad thing.

Verdict: Lovely possibilities

Eighthmen: Renaldo Bothma, Hanro Liebenberg

The Bulls made an astute signing in Renaldo Bothma, the well-traveled and experience Namibian captain.

His workrate and skill is immense but he can’t rest on his laurels with a pedigree junior like Hanro Liebenberg lurking.

Springbok Arno Botha, more a blinside flank, can also shift to No 8.

Verdict: Solid

Flankers: Arno Botha, Nic de Jager, Jannes Kirsten, Jacques Potgieter, Roelof Smit, Shaun Adendorff, Ruan Steenkamp

South African rugby will never experience a shortage of fine loose-forwards.

The Bulls have a fine mix of experience and talent in this group, headlined by the return of  the versatile Jacques Potgieter.

If there’s one potential shortcoming, the Bulls possess many strong ball-carriers but perhaps lack a smaller, quicker fetcher to disrupt the breakdowns.

Verdict: The cupboard is bursting

Locks: Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins

To recruit a Springbok lock in Lood de Jager is no small feat and the class of rookies RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins has already been on show.

But if there’s an injury crisis, Marais will have to shift flankers such as Potgieter and Jannes Kirsten.

Verdict: Potentially world-class but possibly thin on depth

Props: Trevor Nyakane, Jacobie Adriaanse, Coenraad van Vuuren, John-Roy Jenkinson, Lizo Gqoboka, Martin Dreyer, Pierre Schoeman

Is this the year that Trevor Nyakane really takes Super Rugby by storm?

Like Kriel, he’s been promised an extended run as tighthead.

The Bulls have a veteran scrummer in Jacobie Adriaanse and a fast-learner in Pierre Schoeman.

Bok tourist Lizo Gqoboka is excellent to have in the pocket and the rest will be eager to make a mark.

Verdict: Nice mix

Hookers: Adriaan Strauss, Edgar Marutlulle, Corniel Els, Jaco Visagie

After his crappy year as Bok captain, Adriaan Strauss has retired from internationals and is unshackled.

That’s a lovely thought for the Bulls.

Plus, his deputy – Edgar Marutlulle –  was one of the best hookers in last year’s campaign.

Verdict: You’re sorted with Atter and Ed

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