Castle Lager Springbok Showdown to kick-start local season next month

The battle lines are being drawn for a Castle Lager Springbok Showdown, which will pit the best local stars and top, up-and-coming talent against each other on 3 October, as SA Rugby announced its plans today to reignite an exciting four-month local season.

Springbok assistant coaches Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids will coach Springbok Green versus Gold teams for the match at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday 3 October, with Rassie Erasmus (Director of Rugby) and Jacques Nienaber (Springbok coach) acting as the two Team Commissioners.

The selection process will take the form of a draft pick from an enlarged squad of 60 players with Green and Gold team bosses taking alternate turns in an old-style ‘schoolyard pick’ to assemble their match-day squads of 25 players each.

The drama will unfold live on SuperSport, with the enlarged squad set to be announced live on Saturday before the crucial draft pick next week.

“This will not only be an opportunity to see the best of the best available in South Africa square off against each other in what promises to be something never seen before, but it will also provide the players with another valuable opportunity to shake off the rust and get the legs and lungs going after not playing any rugby in the last six months,” said Erasmus.

“The players will be encouraged to showcase their skills – individually and in their teams – and while it will be full-on, we’re expecting to see a highly competitive match of quality players against each other.

“It will be exciting – from the moment we select the squads, with several twists thrown in for good measure – through the build-up to the match and the actual encounter in Cape Town.”

To kick things off though, the local rugby season will resume on 26 September with a double-header at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, when the Vodacom Bulls take on the Cell C Sharks and the Emirates Lions battle the DHL Stormers on Vodacom Super Fan Saturday.

These matches will be followed by the Castle Lager Springbok Showdown at DHL Newlands, after which a double round local competition, between seven franchises, kicks off on the weekend of 10 October.

Details of the local competition, with each of the teams facing the others home and away and every side enjoying two byes during the competition, will be released in due course.

In what is another first for South African rugby, the local competition will continue over Christmas and New Year and will culminate in semi-finals (16 January) and a final on 23 January next year.

“This is a very exciting plan for the next few months, considering all the challenges we’ve faced this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it will be great to see our best local rugby heroes battle it out from October to January,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.

“We’ve worked very hard with Government, SuperSport, our various sponsors and the franchises to get to this point and it’s great to know we can now look forward to brilliant provincial rugby being played in the next couple of months.

“Unfortunately, spectators won’t be allowed inside the stadiums as we are still working with certain COVID-19 regulations.”

Roux said that plans for the Springboks to play the Castle Lager Rugby Championship in Australia were still being pursued but were dependent on international travel and other governmental restrictions as well as player wellness and high-performance considerations.

“We’re still not in a position to confirm plans for the Springboks, but it remains our wish that they play Tests this year,” said Roux.

“It would not only be great to see the Rugby World Cup champions in action, but it would also give the Bok management valuable preparation for next year’s tour of the British & Irish Lions.”

Competition formats and all the fixtures will be confirmed shortly.

 

Jenkins returns to Loftus Versfeld

Springbok lock, Jason Jenkins, has returned to Loftus Versfeld on a short-term loan from Japanese Top League outfit, Toyota Verblitz, and will be available for the impending South African domestic competition.

The 24-year-old Jenkins joined the Vodacom Bulls in 2013 and represented the franchise from U19 level and all the way up to Vodacom Super Rugby. He represented the Junior Springboks and South Africa A before earning his Springbok cap against Wales in Washington DC in June, 2017.

Jenkins’ return adds more beef to the lock forwards as this behemoth weighs 122kg and stands at 2.01m. Aline this with his dynamic skill set and physicality between the for lines, he is without a doubt a welcomed return to the Vodacom Bulls.

 

#BullsFamily welcomes exciting loose forward Louw

The Blue Bulls Company can confirm the signing of the exciting and dynamic loose forward Elrigh Louw effective immediately.

The 20-year-old is an impressive physical specimen, standing 1.95m tall and weighing in at 112kg, with the former Junior Springbok flank ultimately sticking his hand up for the Southern Kings in the 2019/20 Guinness PRO14 before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the global rugby season.

Louw was educated at Hoërskool Transvalia where he represented the Valke at the U18 Craven Week before turning out for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at U19 and U21 level.

His signing further beefs up the Vodacom Bulls’ loose forward stocks with the resumption of the domestic rugby season now within sight.

BBCo Director of Rugby, Jake White, expressed his delight in Louw’s signing as the franchise continues its preparation.

“We are delighted that Elrigh has agreed to join the #BullsFamily as he is a young flanker with a bright future. He has proven in the Guinness PRO14 that he can compete against some of the world’s finest players, and not only has he held his own but excelled while at it.”

Big Duane to lead #BullsFamily

The Vodacom Bulls are proud and excited to announce that big Duane Vermeulen will captain the #BullsFamily, while Arno Botha and Gio Aplon will serve as deputies.

The 34-year-old World Cup winning no.8 is no stranger to leadership roles as he captained the Springboks against New Zealand in Wellington last year while he also wore the DHL Stormers’ armband in 2015.

Couple this with his experience of both Southern and Northern hemisphere rugby, on top of his never-back-down attitude and dedication to perfecting his craft, and it becomes easy to understand his appointment.

Loose forward Arno Botha and utility back Gio Aplon’s appointments as Vermeulen’s deputies were based on similar calculations with Botha (28) having always been earmarked to have a hand in the Vodacom Bulls’ leadership since his junior days at Loftus Versfeld where he led the Vodacom Blue Bulls at various levels including the Currie Cup.

The 37-year-old mercurial and hot stepping utility back Aplon brings a wealth of experience that includes the DHL Stormers, Grenoble and Toyota Verblitz while boasting 17 Springbok caps, he certainly knows how and when to bring the magic on the field. It is this experience that has created a level headed, tactical type of player which will serve the younger backs greatly in the coming seasons.

The Vodacom Bulls have always had the privilege of having some of the finest leaders in world rugby amongst their ranks and it is no different at present with the likes of Trevor Nyakane, Morné Steyn, Nizaam Carr and Ivan van Zyl all highly capable leaders, both on and off the field.

Vermeulen thanked White for showing faith in him as a leader while encouraging the loyal #BullsFamily supporters during this difficult time.

“It is always a privilege to play a game of rugby and it is one I never take for granted. It’s a massive honour to be appointed captain of this group, especially at this exciting time when so much is expected from us. A huge thank you must go out to Jake and the management team for trusting me with this immense privilege.”

“This year has been a difficult one for many South Africans but rugby will return and when it does the Vodacom Bulls will be ready to make you proud.”

Vodacom Blue Bulls U21 management confirmed

The Blue Bulls Company has confirmed the coaching management of the Vodacom Blue Bulls U21 as they gear up in anticipation of defending their SA Rugby U21 Championship crown if and when the season resumes.

This year’s SA Rugby U21 Championship will run parallel with the senior Currie Cup and will feature six teams in a single round of matches before the knockout rounds.

The #BullsFamily is not only proud of the success of their juniors of last year but also determined to create a winning culture and become a powerhouse at junior as well as senior levels which is in-line with Director of Rugby, Jake White’s long-term vision for the franchise.

Hayden Groepes has been named as head coach after successfully guiding the Vodacom Blue Bulls U19 to glory last year and will look to emulate that success at U21 level.

Groepes is no stranger to the junior structures at Loftus Versfeld with the former Vodacom Blue Bulls utility back serving various roles from technical analyst to head coach, while he has also Vodacom Super Rugby and Currie Cup experience as a skills coach.

The U21s will also have the combined experience of Pine Pienaar and David Manuel as assistant coaches and their senior coaching experience at Vodacom Super Rugby, Currie Cup, Super Sport Rugby Challenge, and Vodacom Cup level will ensure that the U21s have everything they need to defend their title.

One of White’s mandates is to align the region’s rugby structures from schools through to clubs and up to Vodacom Super Rugby by ensuring that the same blueprint is followed and the appointment of former Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool and Blue Bulls Craven Week coach, Jaco Koch, as assistant forward coach is another step into making this a reality.

White was excited about the junior coaching and support group, “It’s great to have a junior structure where we can grow and develop not only the young players but also the staff. This is the foundation on what happens at a senior level, and I’m extremely pleased with the group we have entrusted with this task. Hayden has enjoyed success with the u19s last year, and will be keen to continue with the bulk of that those players moving into this division”

Vodacom Blue Bulls U21 management:

  • Head coach: Hayden Groepes
  • Assistant coach – Backs: Pine Pienaar
  • Assistant coach – Forwards: Jaco Koch
  • Assistant coach – Breakdown: David Manuel
  • Scrum coach: Edgar Marutlulle
  • Conditioning coach: Shaun du Toit, Yusuf Vahed
  • Physiotherapists: Kyle Meyer, Um’r Ismail
  • Team doctor: Dr Gerhard Louwrens
  • Logistics manager: Tshepo Mashigo
  • Team manager: Werner de Beer
  • Rehab specialists: Armond de Wet, Tirsa Pittaway
  • Speed Coach: Jacus Coetzee

BullsFamily welcomes Clinton Swart

The Blue Bulls Company can confirm that 27-year-old Clinton Swart will join the Vodacom Bulls effective immediately.

Swart is a versatile player who is an accomplished flyhalf with a proficient boot as a goal kicker and is also more than comfortable in the midfield. He represented the Pumas at Craven Week and Under 19 level before enrolling at the University of Pretoria. His return marks a homecoming of sorts for the talented back as he represented the Vodacom Blue Bulls U21 in 2012.

The brutally effective runner turned out for the Valke before he moved to Kimberley to don the Tafel Lager Griquas jersey and it was during his stay in the Northern Cape where his hard work paid off as he was drafted into the Toyota Cheetahs Vodacom Super Rugby squad.

In 2018, he linked up with Japanese Top League outfit, Toyota Verblitz, where he was coached by the current Vodacom Bulls Director of Rugby, Jake White, and played alongside fellow Vodacom Bulls newcomer Gio Aplon.

His signing will add immense value to the backs while his ability and experience will allow the backline more room to express themselves.

White welcomed Swart to the #BullsFamily, “I do not doubt that Clinton will fit in perfectly into our plans. He is an expressive and hard-running player with an immense work rate. Having worked with him and coached him before, he knows perfectly well what I expect of him.”

‘Jake bel die Polisie’

The Vodacom Bulls are excited to welcome experienced prop Jacques van Rooyen, aka “Policeman”, who will join the #BullsFamily with immediate effect.

The 33-year-old loosehead prop best epitomises the term ‘late bloomer’ as he only signed his first professional contract with the Emirates Lions back in 2013 and blossomed into a mainstay amongst the front rowers, featuring in all three Vodacom Super Rugby finals played by the Lions.

Van Rooyen, affectionately known as the “Policeman” due to his association with Pretoria Police Rugby Club, explored his options overseas and turned out for Bath and the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes before returning to South Africa.

Van Rooyen’s experience will also add immensely in mentoring the younger loosehead props while his effective scrummaging technique and incredible mobility will bolster the Vodacom Bulls as Director of Rugby, Jake White, continues to add firepower to his squad.

 

#BullsFamily bids Nonkontwana farewell

The #BullsFamily bid farewell to loose forward Abongile Nonkontwana today. The 25-year old former SA Schools and Junior Springbok joined the Vodacom Bulls after finishing his schooling at St. Alban’s College in 2014 and went on to represent the franchise at U19, U21, Super Sport Rugby Challenge, Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby level.

Nonkontwana, who can also play in the second row, made a name for himself as a quality loose forward with a high work rate.

In 2018, he joined the Toyota Cheetahs where he tasted European rugby in the Guinness PRO14 before returning to Loftus Versfeld for the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season and featured in several matches before the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to the global rugby season.

The entire #BullsFamily wishes him all the best with his journey ahead.

#BullsFamily bids Herbst farewell

The Blue Bulls Company confirms that prop Wiehahn Herbst will leave Loftus Versfeld to join the Emirates Lions.

Herbst joined after the 2018 season and spent a year and a half in the colours of the Vodacom Bulls where his experience assisted immensely on the field and also in the grooming of some of the younger front row crop.

Director of Rugby, Jake White, thanked Herbst for his services and wished the burly front rower well with his new endeavour, “Wiehahn is an experienced prop who has learnt his trade internationally. We know he will add value at the Emirates Lions, and wherever he travels beyond that. We wish him all the best with his path ahead, and hope he grows from strength to strength.”

Herbst thanked the #BullsFamily for the memories, “My time at Loftus may have been short but it was packed with memories. Thank you for welcoming me into the #BullsFamily and allowing me the opportunity to play in the blue jersey.”

 

#BullsFamily bid Visagie farewell

The Blue Bulls Company confirmed today that experienced hooker Jaco Visagie will be leaving Loftus Versfeld and will link up with the Emirates Lions.

Visagie made his first-class debut in 2013’s Vodacom Cup and went on to represent the franchise at all levels including U19, U21, Currie Cup and Vodacom Super Rugby. He earned his 50th cap for the Vodacom Bulls against the Blues earlier this year.

Director of Rugby, Jake White, wished Visagie well on his journey, “Jaco has been a loyal servant and warrior for the #BullsFamily for ten years, and has given his best in that time. I wish him well as he embarks on this new chapter in his rugby career at the Emirates Lions.”

Visagie thanked the #BullsFamily for backing him, “It’s been an amazing journey, to say the least, filled with highs and lows, and I’m sincerely grateful for the opportunities that I have been granted at Loftus. I’d like to thank my teammates, the management, the staff, and everybody else that’s contributed to my career thus far. I’m excited about the next step, and look forward to the journey ahead.”