With the 22nd year of Super Rugby fast approaching, we take a look a look at the Vodacom Bulls Super Rugby Prospects in 2017.
Vodacom Bulls Super Rugby Prospects
The South African teams, competing in two separate conferences, seem to be relatively evenly matched. The early prediction is that the Lions will be the team to beat and the Kings likely to be the basement dwellers again. In between we are likely to see the a close contest for supremacy between the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Cheetahs. As we know, it is a very long tournament and anything could possibly happen.
The Bulls welcome back Handre Pollard. The Loftus faithful will have missed his natural leadership, accuracy off the tee and ability to take the ball to the line in 2016, the pivot having missed the entire year with a knee injury.
He will lead the Bulls for the first few games of the 2017 season. Adriaan Strauss will take over the reigns as soon as he has completed his rehabilitation after back surgery.
A selection of incoming players includes center Johnny Kotze, Springbok lock Lood de Jager and flankers Shaun Adendorff and Jacques Potgieter. The front row has been strengthened with the inclusion of Jacobie Adriaanse from the Kings. Popular for his high work rate for the Kings in 2016, hooker Edgar Maratlulle is a more than handy addition.
This will be supplemented by a number of players moving up from their Currie Cup and junior squads.
Some of the players who will not be running out onto Loftus turf include hookers Bandise Maku and Callie Visagie, props Dean Greyling, Werner Kruger and Marcel van der Merwe, lock Grant Hattingh, center Dan Kriel, wing Bjorn Basson and fullback SP Marais.
Performance in 2016
In 2016, the Bulls ended 2nd in Africa 1 Conference, 4th in the South African Group and 9th overall. They failed to make the qualifying rounds, which would be regarded as a poor season by the three time winners of the competition.
The 2017 season will be the second season that coach Nollis Marais will have his hand on the reigns. He took over the team at short notice at the beginning of 2016 and his first year in charge will provide him a strong base to build on in 2017.
Style of Play
The return of Handre Pollard should unleash the phenomenal firepower out wide that the Bulls have built up over the last two seasons. Players such as Jamba Ulengo, Jan Serfontein, Jessie Kriel, Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaeil, Johnny Kotze and Burger Odendaal have the ability to test any defense. Hopefully they will not be used as kick chasers in 2017.
They Bulls have also added some additional firepower in their pack from other franchises as well as from their Currie Cup squad. This is potentially one of the better Bulls squads in recent years assembled for a Super Rugby campaign.
The Playing Kit
Courtesy of the Bulls, we have pictures of their home and away playing kits for 2017. They have gone for a very traditional look for this edition of the competition. The jersey on the left is their home strip in their famed light blue. The jersey on the right is their away strip. They have done away with camouflage look and the non-traditional red jersey.
The Bulls have not enjoyed much success in Super Rugby in recent years and their fans will hope that this is the year that they progress and are competitive at the business end of the competition.