2017 Team Preview: Bulls

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After falling agonisingly short of a playoff place in 2016, the Bulls will be desperate for more this season.

Season: Ninth

Squad:
Backs: Ulrich Beyers, Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel*, Travis Ismaiel, Luther Obi, Jamba Ulengo*, Jade Stighling, Duncan Matthews, Kefentse Mahlo, Sibahle Maxwane, Johnny Kotze, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, JT Jackson, Jan Serfontein*, Francois Brummer, Tony Jantjies, Tian Schoeman, Handre Pollard*, Ivan van Zyl, Piet van Zyl*, Rudy Paige*, Andre Warner

Forwards: Hanro Liebenberg, Arno Botha*, Nick de Jager, Renaldo Bothma**, Jannes Kirsten, Jacques Potgieter*, Roelof Smit***, Shaun Adendorff, Ruan Steenkamp, Lood de Jager*, RG Snyman***, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane*, Conraad van Vuuren, John-Roy Jenkinson, Martin Dreyer, Jacobie Adriaanse, Pierre Schoeman, Lizo Gqoboko***, Adriaan Strauss*, Edgar Marutlulle, Corniel Els, Jaco Visagie
Key signing:
The lineout shouldn’t be an issue this season with the smart signing of Lood de Jager from the Cheetahs. At 6 foot 9 and 125kgs, de Jager is one of the most imposing locks going around on the International stage and will provide the Bulls with not only height in the lineout but also power around the park. At just 24-years of age, de Jager is already somewhat of a veteran with 28 Springboks Test caps under his belt.

Springbok-laden:

There is no shortage of international experience in the Bulls squad with 12 players having played for the Springboks. In the forwards, Jacques Potgieter will provide the power running game while Adriaan Strauss is one of the most accomplished front rowers in the world game. The backs are looking like a strength for the Bulls with Jesse Kriel, Handre Pollard and Jan Serfontein all impressing in the South Africa jersey over the past couple of seasons. The Bulls international experience is capped off by Namibian international Renaldo Bothma.

Game breaker:
After missing the majority of the 2016 season through a knee injury, the Bulls will be happy to welcome world class first five-eighth Handre Pollard back into their line up this season. 22-year-old Pollard is a classical pivot with an accurate boot, swift pass and proficient game management. At 6 foot 2 and 100kg, Pollard also has the ability to break the line when he chooses to run. If the Bulls are going to improve on their 2016 efforts, then a lot hinges on the shoulders of Pollard.

The scoop:

On paper, the Bulls are one of the brightest South African prospects in this year’s Super Rugby tournament. The key will be whether they can hit the ground running. If the Bulls come out of the blocks and put some big numbers on teams then they will be a real challenger. If they start slow then they could be in danger of missing out on the playoffs like they did last season. The opening three or four rounds will be critical to the Bulls chances.


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