Pollard, Kriel back to face Jaguars

Vodacom Bulls regulars, Handré Pollard and Jesse Kriel, are back in the starting fifteen for the Pretoria franchise that will face the Jaguares at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The two Springboks missed last weekend’s unexpected defeat in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament against the Sunwolves in Tokyo due to a rest agreement between SA Rugby and the six Super Rugby franchises, but their influence will be vital in the surge needed from the home side to become play-off contenders later in the season.

They replace Tian Schoeman and Warrick Gelant, who reverts to the bench.

Coach Nollis Marais not only welcomes back two of his international players, but also has a fit Lood de Jager available. De Jager missed the Tokyo match due to injury, but the former SA Rugby Player of the Year is back to full fitness and replaces Jason Jenkins, who moves down to the bench.

Piet van Zyl, who also missed out on Sunwolves selection due to injury, is fit again and the third change to the backline. He comes in for Rudy Paige at scrumhalf.

Up front, Pierre Schoeman will start at loosehead for the fourth time this season, replacing Lizo Gqoboka.

Former Vodacom Blue Bulls age group player, Marnus Schoeman (on loan from the Steval Pumas), was named on the bench and could make his Vodacom Super Rugby and Vodacom Bulls debut if he takes to the field.

The former Waterkloof High School flanker was on loan to the DHL Stormers at the start of the season, but picked up an injury pre-season and missed out on squad selection down in Cape Town.

He now joins a number of old team mates in the set-up.

Marais was not hiding away from their poor performances when announcing the team in Pretoria on Thursday.

“We are not where we wanted to be at this stage of the competition and that is disappointing. Yes, we had a tough schedule in the opening weeks of the competition, but good teams are supposed to overcome those. I still believe we have the make-up, talent and mindset to become a serious contender in the tournament this year, but reality bites. We under performed, but there is massive determination to turn our season around.”

Vodacom Bulls captain, Adriaan Strauss, is all too aware of the threats the Jaguars will post.

“They are almost a test match team and they play test match style rugby. They minimise mistakes, take the points and put huge emphasis on first phase. That makes them a difficult team to breakdown. We can do that, but will need patience on attack and discipline on defence,” Strauss said.

“The team is absolutely delighted to be back home, not only in their personal capacity, but also back at Loftus,where our other family lives. We need to show we are a championship team and I think us coming back to our fans and support base, could just be the spark.”

Vodacom Bulls change two for trip to Bloemfontein

Vodacom Bulls coach Nollis Marais drafted in Jason Jenkins to replace injured Lood de Jager and swopped around Lizo Gqoboka and Pierre Schoeman in the Vodacom Bulls team that will take on theToyota Cheetahs in the second round of the 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

These are the only two changes to the starting side that dropped the result against the DHL Stormers in Cape Townlast weekend.

Lood de Jager’s unavailability due to concussion will see Jason Jenkins combining with RG Snyman at lock. The duowill have little difficulty in partnering up. They played together in sevenmatches in last year’s tournament and both scored tries when they last faced the Toyota Cheetahs in a 23-18 win at Loftus Versfeld.

Renaldo Bothma will fill the vacancy on the bench left by the promotion of Jenkins.

In an early rotational switch by Marais, Pierre Schoeman and Lizo Gqoboka swop around, with the Springbok tourist from lastyear starting and Schoeman, a try-scorer against the Stormers, coming off the bench.

Marais pulled no punches about the opening weekend in Cape Town.

“We were outplayed by a better team on the day. It was a very good reality check and lessons were learned. We need to show that we can learn from mistakes and improve on them,” Marais said.

“The Cheetahs will be hurting afterthat close loss to the Lions last weekend and will be motivated in what happened in our last match in Bloemfontein. I have no doubt that this group of Bulls players are good enough to be real contenders, but that belief will be tested by a side that refuses to give up or accept defeat. We have another massive challenge ahead of us, but I can honestly say that everyone in the squad is looking forward to this.”

Vodacom Bulls captain, Handré Pollard, scored 29 points against the Toyota Cheetahs the last time he faced them in Bloemfontein, but is adamant that everyone is on a clean slate this time around.

“What you achieved in the past means nothing if you don’t deliver your A-game every time, something myself and the team realised again last weekend in Cape Town. We need to produce come Saturday, with a performance that will do justice to the hard work done, but also to justify the support of our fans and the backing from our coaches. In short, we need to show that we are serious to win this competition,” Pollard insisted.

The team (with Super Rugby caps and points) is: Jesse Kriel (32, 10), Travis Ismaiel (18, 30), Burger Odendaal (19, 10), Dries Swanepoel (8, 10), Jamba Ulengo (11, 25), Handré Pollard (c; 26, 245), Rudy Paige (35, 0), Hanro Liebenberg (9, 15), Jacques Potgieter (57, 35), Nick de Jager (6, 5), RG Snyman (13, 10), JasonJenkins (14, 5), Trevor Nyakane (71, 15), Jaco Visagie (9, 0), Lizo Gqoboka(12, 0). Replacment bench: Edgar Marutlulle (25, 20), Pierre Schoeman (10, 0), Jacobie Adriaanse (27, 0), Renaldo Bothma (18, 20), Ruan Steenkamp (1, 0), Piet van Zyl (69, 60), TianSchoeman (23, 75), Warrick Gelant (5, 5).

#CHEvBUL

Vodacom Bulls to partner with CHOC

The Vodacom Bulls are pleased to announce their exciting partnership with the Childhood Cancer Foundation SA (CHOC) a day after International Childhood Cancer Day which was on 15 February.

The Vodacom Bulls and CHOC have worked together in the past but have solidified their relationship as the two organizations look to create awareness about childhood cancer.

“We will assist CHOC with creating mass awareness around their cause and brand, by getting involved with some of their events and opening up our resources and services to them. More importantly, the team and management are really looking forward to getting directly involved on a personal note with the kids from CHOC. These little warriors fight a brave battle every day, and I believe that this is an inspiration to anybody privileged enough to meet them,” said Shanil Mangaroo, Blue Bulls Company: Marketing, Media and Communication Manager.

CHOC was founded in 1979 when a group of parents, who’s children were suffering fromcancer, came together to form a non-profit organization that assists families that are dealing with childhood cancer and life threatening blood disorders, both emotionally and financially.

CHOC provides free accommodation to children and their caregivers in six provinces in South Africa as well as transport to and from hospitals. The foundation also assists with psycho-social support for families from diagnosis as well as the journey, practical support as well as sending volunteers to interact with the children in the pediatric oncology units.

Ina Schomper, Regional Manager of the Northern Region of CHOC, stated that they are excited to be partnering with the Vodacom Bulls on a more permanent basis.

“The Vodacom Bulls’ support of the CHOC Northern Region’s initiatives in the past assisted us with raising awareness for childhood cancer and life threatening blood disorders and I am very excited about entering this new chapter of our relationship,” said Schomper.

With the Vodacom Blue Bulls, an icon in the community, I believe this new partnership will provide CHOC with new opportunities to spread the very important message of early detection of childhood cancer that can positively influence the survival rate in South Africa. More visibility will also contribute to more interest in CHOC’s programmes and together we keep more than hope alive,” added Schomper.

De Jager to start first match for Vodacom Bulls

New signing Lood de Jager will make his first appearance for the Vodacom Bulls against the Chiefs in Brisbane on Thursday, after being named in the squad that face the New Zealand team in a Vodacom Super Rugby friendly at the Ballymore Stadium.

De Jager, who moved from the Toyota Cheetahs, will form a lock combination with RG Snyman in a team that will also see the return to Bulls colours for Jacques Potgieter, who won the Super Rugby title with the Waratahs a couple of years back.

Handré Pollard is also taking the field for the first time in more than a year and will lead the side, Jesse Kriel was named at fullback and Trevor Nyakane will start at tighthead in the match against the Chiefs.

“We don’t have much time left in the pre-season, so it will be important for certain combinations to work well in this match,” Vodacom Bulls coach, Nollis Marais, said.

“The Chiefs are a formidable team and this will be an important match to see where we are at this early in the season.”

The squad to take on the Chiefs is: Jesse Kriel, Travis Ismaiel, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Handre Pollard (c), Rudy Paige, Hanro Liebenberg, Jacques Potgieter, Nic de Jager, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Bench: Edgar Maruthlule, Lizo Gqoboka, Jason Jenkins, Ruan Steenkamp, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Warrick Gelant, John-Roy Jenkinson, Jacobie Adriaanse, Renaldo Bothma, Francois Brummer, JT Jackson.

Vodacom Bulls off to Brisbane

The Vodacom Bulls squad that will play the Chiefs in Brisbane and then contest the Brisbane Global Tens next weekend, has been named.

Flyhalf Handré Pollard will captain the squad and is set to make a return to the playing field after more than a year, with new signings, Johnny Kotze, Shaun Adendorff and Jacques Potgieter, also included in the squad.

The pre-season match against the Chiefs is at Ballymore Stadium in Brisbane on Thursday, 9 February.

At the Brisbane Global Tens, played at Suncorp Stadium on 11/12 February, the Vodacom Bulls have been grouped with the Brumbies and Highlanders and depending on results, either the Western Force, Hurricanes or Toulon.

“This will be an interesting trip for us, as we have not done this before,” said coach, Nollis Marais. “It does give us time together to work as a squad and that is very valuable, especially this time of our pre-season. The guys are keen to give it a go and we have a clear understanding of what we want to achieve on this trip.”

The squad is:

Warrick Gelant, Jade Stighling, Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Luther Obi, Burger Odendaal, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze, JT Jackson, Dries Swanepoel, Francois Brummer, Handre Pollard (c), Tian Schoeman, Andre Warner, Ivan van Zyl, Piet van Zyl, Rudy Paige, Renaldo Bothma, HanroLiebenberg (v/c), Ruan Steenkamp, Shaun Adendorff, Nic de Jager, Jacques Potgieter, Jason Jenkins, Ruben van Heerden, RG Snyman, Lodewyk de Jager, Jacobie Adriaanse, John-Roy Jenkinson, Trevor Nyakane, Lizo Gqoboka, PierreSchoeman, Corniel Els, Edgar Marutllule, Jaco Visagie, Adriaan Strauss.

Pollard to lead Vodacom Bulls

The Vodacom Bulls announced that flyhalf Handré Pollard will be captaining the Vodacom Super Rugby franchise going into the season, while regular captain Adriaan Strauss is still recovering from surgery and expected to miss the first few games of the competition.

The young flyhalf is no stranger to leadership roles, as he performed a sterling job of captaining the junior Boks on several occasions, and has always been part of the leadership group at Loftus Versfeld over the last few years.

Coach Nollis Marais: “Handré is an amazing rugby player and a natural born leader, and we are privileged to have a young man of his caliber in our system. He has a strong personality and a great vision for the game, as he has shown time and time again, at all levels. Couple that with the respect he has earned from the players and the vital experience he has gained with the Springboks, and his appointment becomes obvious.”

Pollard will be deputised by Hanro Liebenberg, another youngster who had the honour of captaining the junior Boks as well as the Vodacom Blue Bulls at both junior and Currie Cup levels.

Botha to leave Vodacom Bulls after Vodacom Super Rugby campaign

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Monday confirmed that loose forward Arno Botha will leave the franchise at the end of the 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby season. Botha will link up with Ulster.

The High Performance Manager of the BBC, Xander Janse van Rensburg, said that Botha, who has played for the Vodacom Bulls 46 times in his career so far, will finish the 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby season with the team before joining up with the Irish. “Arno received a very good offer from Ulster. We have been in constant discussions with Arno about his future since 2016.

“We want to thank him for his contribution, we are thankful and proud of what he has done. The situation is that we can’t financially make an offer close to what he’s currently earning. Luckily we have great players coming through that we will be investing in,” Janse van Rensburg said.

“He is still a big player for us in the coming months and we are expecting some meaningful contributions from him as we embark on a tough Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.”

Janse van Rensburg wished Botha well. “We know he will be successful with Ulster. He is a very professional player. Both parties are in unison that it’s the best move for him at this stage of his career.”

Botha said he was comfortable with the decision. “I have achieved such a lot with the Vodacom Bulls and will give my all to help the team to try and win the Vodacom Super Rugby title in 2017, something that has eluded me so far in my career. I am only leaving at the end of the campaign and is highly motivated to deliver for the team. The decision to move to Ulster was taken after considerable thought from my side and I feel it is the right time in my career to feel what rugby in the Northern Hemisphere is all about. Till then, I am as passionate about the Bulls as I have ever been.”

For more information, please call Xander Janse van Rensburg at 072 197 3136.

Vodacom Bulls and Puma reveal Super Rugby kit in classic Forever Blue

PUMA the official technical and apparel partner of the Vodacom Bulls has unveiled their new Vodacom Super Rugby Home and Away kits. The design of the kits marks a return to Blue for both Home and Away, as a tribute to the Bull’s proud heritage.

The traditional blue Home kit has a simple yet bold design, which looks back at designs worn by PUMA performance legends and teams, and features the classic PUMA owned 7cm Performance Stripe. Staying Forever Blue, the darker blue hue Away kit also pays homage to true Bulls tradition.

“The new Bulls kit pays homage to their rich heritage and by going back to the team’s colour of classic blue, PUMA has highlighted the true expression of what it means to be a Bull’s fan by staying Forever Blue. As technical sponsor we have no doubt the kit will inspire the Vodacom Bulls in 2017 and we support them every step of the way,” says PUMA South Africa’s Marketing Director, Brett Bellinger.

Barend van Graan, CEO of the Blue Bulls Company, says: “PUMA have once again outdone themselves in producing a kit that not only speaks to retro-design trends, but also pays homage to our proud heritage. Together, we have gone full-circle with innovative and ground-breaking designs, from shocking the country with the first pink rugby kit to be worn by a South African team to sporting green camouflage, and even breaking all boundaries with a striking black and orange away strip last year that once again got the rugby loving public talking. The 2017 kit is elegantly striking in its simplicity, and will no doubt resound with the loyal blue-blooded fans.”

The new Super Rugby replica shirt will be available for R799 at PUMA, Totalsports and The Cross Trainer stores as well as Sportsmans Warehouse.

With every purchase of a Vodacom Bulls shirt, PUMA are offering supporters a free Bulls rugby ball on Black Friday, 25 November 2016, only. Participating PUMA stores include Menlyn Mall Centurion, Kolonnade, Atterbury, Canal Walk, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Rosebank, Braamfontein, Pavillion, Mall of Africa as well as Sportsmans Warehouse. Totalsports will participate in Black Friday by giving away the previous season’s jersey with every new Bulls jersey bought.

Pollard to return to training next month

Flyhalf Handré Pollard will join the rest of the Vodacom Bulls squad on 4 December for a pre-season camp in George and is expected to make a return to the playing field on 28 January 2017 when the Vodacom Bulls will face a South African Super Rugby opponent in Zimbabwe in their first match of the year.

Pollard missed the 2016 season due to knee and shoulder injuries, but he is amongst a host of players, including midfielder Jan Serfontein that has recovered well and will return to the squad at the training camp that will last till 16 December.

A big squad is currently training in Pretoria and Vodacom Bulls coach, Nollis Marais, will cut the numbers before they travel to George for the camp.

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd confirmed on Friday that Irne Herbst and Dayan van der Westhuizen will be on loan to the Southern Kings for the 2017 Vodacom Super Rugby season.

“This is a great opportunity for them to play Super Rugby and continue their development and progress as players,” BBC’s High Performance manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg said.

“We realise the importance of depth if you want to win a Super Rugby title, but it is also in the best interest of South African rugby and the players to have them on the field and playing, so we have no problem with them playing at the Kings in 2017.”

A large number of junior players are currently with the squad and according to Janse van Rensburg, this is done on purpose.

“We have been bringing in juniors to train with the senior squad since 2011 and it works well for us. We will expose our Under-19 recruits like Hanru Sirgel, Kwezi Mafu, JC Pretorius, Jerome Bossr, Christiaan Strydom and Cabous Eloff to the senior group. We deem it important to create opportunities for youngster to be exposed to senior and Super Rugby training sessions and players. In order for us to fast-track them and make the gap smaller, they need to measure themselves against the top players and we believe its integral part of their growth and development as a player. We will be constantly doing this with all the junior players,” Janse van Rensburg confirmed.

Western Province Under-21 wing, Sibahle “Rabs” Maxwane and Junior Springbok and Free State Under-21 prop Conraad van Vuuren, has also joined the Blue Bulls, he confirmed.

The provisional warm-up fixtures for 2017 are:

28 January: South African Super Rugby opponent (Zimbabwe)

8 February: Chiefs (Brisbane)

10/11 February: Brisbane 10’s.

The extended Vodacom Bulls training squad is: 

Utility backs: Duncan Matthews, Divan Rossouw, Manie Libbok, Jesse Kriel, Earll Dowrie.

Fullbacks: Warrick Gelant, Ulrich Beyers

Wings: Luther Obi, Kafentse Mahlo, Irvin Ali, Andell Loubser, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling, Travis Ismaiel, Sibahle “Rabs” Maxwane.

Centres: Dries Swanepoel, Johnny Kotze, Jan Serfontein, Franco Naude, Burger Odendaal, JT Jackson, Boeta Hamman.

Flyhalves: Francois Brummer, Tony Jantjies, Joshua Stander, Tian Schoeman, Handré Pollard.

Scrumhalves: Ivan van Zyl, Andre Warner, Embrose Papier, Rudy Paige, Piet van Zyl.

Loose Forwards: Renaldo Bothma, Hanro Liebenberg, Freddy Ngoza, Arno Botha, Nic de Jager, Abongile Nonkontwana, Ryno Pieterse, Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Shaun Adendorff, Roelof Smit, Jacques Potgieter, Eduan Lubbe, Marco van Staden.

Lock: Eli Snyman, Hendre Stassen, Lood de Jager, Jason Jenkins, Ruben van Heerden, RG Snyman.

Props: Jacobie Adriaanse, Conraad van Vuuren, John-Roy Jenkinson, Martin Dreyer, Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Schoeman, Gerhard Steenekamp, Lizo Gqoboka, Nqoba Mxoli.

Hookers: Jaco Visagie, Edgar Marutlulle, Corniel Els, Adriaan Strauss, Alandre van Rooyen.

Lood de Jager to join Vodacom Bulls

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Tuesday confirmed that Lodewyk (Lood) de Jager has agreed terms with them and will join the Vodacom Bulls on November 1st, 2016 on a 12-month contract.

The SA Rugby Player of the Year for 2015 is currently playing his trade in Bloemfontein, where he has played in 40 matches for the Toyota Cheetahs in the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament thus far. The 23-year old also has 20 test matches for the Springboks to his credit.

Commenting on the signing, BBC High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, expressed his delight with the signing.

“This is great news for us, not only because Lood is one of the best locks in the world, but also the fact that he sees the Vodacom Bulls as a team that will enhance his career and ambitions. This is a compliment to what we are trying to achieve and a massive boost to our vision to build something special again in Pretoria,” Janse van Rensburg said.

De Jager said he was keen to join the Vodacom Bulls, but still has unfinished business in Bloemfontein. “I am pretty excited about my future with the Vodacom Bulls and what they want to achieve in future. That said, I am still committed to the Cheetahs till the end of the season and will give my all in playing for them. They have been instrumental in the way my career developed and I want to thank them in the best way possible – by giving my all every time I take to the field for the Cheetahs.”