New Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais named an exciting squad for the upcoming Absa Currie Cup competition, with a number of Springboks amongst the group that will try to win the coveted trophy for the first time in his tenure.
At the same time, the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd named a number of high class contract extensions, confirming the Vodacom Blue Bulls as preferred home for many of the country’s most promising players.
Marais named the likes of Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Handré Pollard, Rudy Paige, Victor Matfield, Marcel van der Merwe, Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss in his extended group, but most of them are likely to be involved with South Africa’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup campaigns and could see very little if any Absa Currie Cup action.
Even in their absence, the squad is packed with proven players that have won the Currie Cup before, as well as a number of Springboks not part of national coach Heyneke Meyer’s squad for 2015.
More rejuvenating for the coach though, is the new breed of talent bursting through the senior ranks.
“This is exciting times for us,” Marais said when he announced the squad in Pretoria on Tuesday.
“We have some of the best young players in the country who won national titles at Under-19 and Under-21 level and excelled for the Junior Springboks on the world stage. Coupled with that, we have some classy internationals available for this campaign and I am pretty confidentthat we will be a very competitive outfit this year,” Marais said.
“We are working very hard already. We are keen to get going and our two warm-up matches (EP Kings in PE on July 17 and Canon, Japan on July 31) will be very important in our preparations. We are an inexperienced squad in that we have not played much together as a team, but all of these players are true blue in attitude, commitment and passion, so we just need to execute a game plan to complement their talent,” Marais said.
The High Performance Manager at the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd, Xander Janse van Rensburg, at the same time confirmed a number of high profile contract extensions.
The headline signing is fullback Jesse Kriel, who extended his BBC contract till October 2018.
“We are very pleased to have Jesse highlighting the huge number of younger squad players extending their contracts,” Janse Van Rensburg said.
“There can be no doubt that we are continuously attracting the best talent in the country to Pretoria and it is very satisfying to see them wanting to stay on. This is a good indication that players are happy at the way they develop here and at the opportunities we provide to them to play at a very competitive level.”
The players who signed extensions are:
Current Junior Springboks RG Snyman, Hanro Liebenberg, Ivan van Zyl, Abongile Nonkontwana, Njabulo Gumede (all till October 2017) and Jason Jenkins till October 2018.
*Warrick Gelant and Tinus de Beer are contracted till October 2016 and JT Jackson till October 2017.
The rest of the Vodacom Blue Bulls Absa Currie Cup management team has also been confirmed, with former Springbok and Vodacom Bulls hooker Gary Botha joining the fray as technical consultant (forwards).
The rest of the support staff are:
John-William Meyer (Technical)
Andre Volsteedt (Strength and Conditioning)
Stephen Plummer (Rehab)
Karabo Morokane (Physio)
Pieter du Plessis (Physio)
Elzanne van Coller (Masseuse)
Dr Org Strauss (Team Doctor)
Tim Dlulane (Team Manager)
Elias Bennet (Kit Master)
The 2015 Absa Currie Cup squad is:
Fullback: Jesse Kriel (Springboks), Jurgen Visser, Jacques Rossouw, Warrick Gelant, Riaan Britz. Injured: Duncan Matthews, Ryan Nell (both September)
Wing: Travis Ismaiel, Kefentse Mahlo, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling
Centre: Jan Serfontein (Springboks), William Small-Smith, Dries Swanepoel, Daniel Kriel, Burger Odendaal
Flyhalf: Handré Pollard (Springboks), Tian Schoeman, Marais Schmidt, Louis Fouché
Scrumhalf: Rudy Paige (Springboks), Francois Hougaard, Carlo Engelbrecht, André Warner, Ivan van Zyl. Injured: Piet van Zyl (till 2016)
Loose Forward: Pierre Spies*, Hanro Liebenberg, Clyde Davids, Arno Botha, Jannes Kirsten, Deon Stegmann, Lappies Labuschagne, Roelof Smit. Injured: Ruan Steenkamp (August).
Lock: Victor Matfield (Springboks), Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Jacques du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe, Jason Jenkins. Injured: Irné Herbst (2016), Dennis Visser (Sept 2015).
Props: Marcel van der Merwe (Springboks), Werner Kruger, Andrew Beerwinkel, Nqoba Mxoli, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Trevor Nyakane (Springboks), Dean Greyling, Morné Mellett, Justin Forwood, Neethling Fouché. Injured: Pierre Schoeman (August)
Hooker: Adriaan Strauss (Springboks), Bandise Maku, Jaco Visagie, Corniel Els. Injured: Callie Visagie (middle August).
*Pierre Spies contracted till October 2015, indicated but not confirmed early release in order to go to Japan.
Janse Van Rensburg also confirmed the following:
Record Absa Currie Cup try scorer in a season, Bjorn Basson, decided to execute his Japan option in his contract and will leave for the Far East shortly. He will be back for the Vodacom Super Rugby season in 2016.
A final settlement with Pieter Rossouw has also been reached and the backline coach will join Namibia as part of their Rugby World Cup preparations with immediate effect.