The Super 14 era – 2006 to 2010 – was the pinnacle of the Bulls’ rise to the top of Super Rugby megastardom.
They won three titles in four years – one of only three teams to have won three titles or more.
It should not come as a surprise that their rise to the top of the totem pole coincided with a settled coaching panel – Heyneke Meyer (from 2004 to 2007, although he had brief stints in 2000 and 2002), with Frans Ludeke (close ally of Meyer) taking over in 2008.
The coaching merry-go-round before that – John Williams (1996), Kitch Christie (1997), Eugene van Wyk (1998/99), Meyer (2000), Phil Pretorius (2001), Meyer (2002) and Rudi Joubert (2003) – was marked by some of the worst Bulls performances in living memory.
From 1996 to 2005 they had a winning success rate of just over 30 percent.
The last few years have seen coaches come-and-go again – Nollis Marais (2016/17) and John Mitchell (2018).
Pote Human, the third coach in the new era of coaching musical chairs will hopefully bring some stability again.
He has been in the Bulls/Blue Bulls set-up for many years – Blue Bulls (2005-2006, head coach), Bulls (2005-2008, forwards coach), UP Tuks (2013 to 2017, head coach), Blue Bulls U21 (2016, head coach).
The last two years he was the forwards coach at the Bulls and Blue Bulls and took over as head coach for the 2018 Currie Cup – finally getting the Super Rugby job for 2019.
The recruitment of some big-name Springboks – Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits – will add the experience that has been missing in recent years.
They will also be invaluable support to captain Lodewyk de Jager.
Other Springboks – like Embrose Papier, Handré Pollard, Rudolph Snyman and Ivan van Zyl – will be key to the team’s hopes of replicating the glory of a decade ago.
The coach, Human, readily admits that a good start is obligatory – with their opening match against arch-rivals the Stormers.
That is followed by trips to Buenos Aires (to play the Jaguares) and Ellis Park (Lions), before a home game against the Sharks.
If they drop points in the first month, they will quickly slip back into the chasing pack.
South African Conference Placing: Second
Player of the Year: Duane Vermeulen
Rookie of the Year: Muller Uys
Super Rugby Placing: Sixth or seventh (losing quarterfinalists)
In: Schalk Brits (from Saracens), Stedman Gans (Sevens), Cornal Hendricks (free agent), Dylan Sage (Sevens), Paul Schoeman (Cheetahs), Rosko Specman (Sevens), Muller Uys (Western Province), Duane Vermeulen (Toulon).
Out: Shaun Adendorff (to Aurillac), Francois Brummer (Zebre), Ruben van Heerden (Sharks), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), Adriaan Strauss (retired), Dries Swanepoel (Cheetahs), Frans van Wyk (Lions), Jamba Ulengo (released).
Squad – provisional: Cornal Hendricks, Muller Uys, Paul Schoeman, Rosko Specman, Schalk Brits, Andre Warner, Burger Odendaal, Carel du Preez, Conraad van Vuuren, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Divan Rossouw, Duncan Matthews, Dylan Sage, Edgar Marutlulle, Embrose Papier, Franco Naude, Handré Pollard, Hanro Liebenberg, Hendre Stassen, Ivan van Zyl, Jaco Visagie, Jade Stighling, Jannes Kirsten, Jano Venter, Jason Jenkins, Jesse Kriel, Johan Grobbelaar, Johnny Kotze, JT Jackson, Lizo Gqoboka, Lodewyk de Jager, Madot Mabokela, Manie Libbok, Marco van Staden, Marnitz Boshoff, Mathys Basson, Nic De Jager, Nqoba Mxoli, Rudolph Snyman, Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Simphiwe Matanzima, Thembelani Boli, Theo Maree, Tim Agaba, Travis Ismaiel, Trevor Nyakane, Warrick Gelant.
Best finish: Champions in 2007, 2009 and 2010
Worst finish: Fifteenth in 2017
By Jan de Koning @rugby365
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