With strong financial backing, relative to some of the other unions in the country, the Bulls have tended to cast a large net in terms of capturing players coming fresh out of school, in their bid to scoop up future stars for the franchise.
It has drawn criticism previously from other unions, as well as concerns being raised about the quality of individual coaching each player could receive when so many are brought in each season. It seems, however, as if financial concerns, rather than player development ones, are what could end this practice.
According to a report by SuperSport, the Bulls could be about to cut over 100 contracts, with 204 players in total currently on their books.
The South African publication also highlighted that the Bulls took in 54 players who were leaving school in the last year, before finding out that SA Rugby would be cutting the annual U19 competition between the provinces.
New Director of Rugby Alan Zondagh explained to SuperSport that the days of the Bulls handing out financially-rewarding junior contracts and cherry-picking some of the best talent in South Africa, were over.
“We have different types of issues, we have the top players in this country all wanting to leave. We are fighting against the money situation and we have too many players contracted at this union at the moment. We have the most of anybody and we have just started cutting down, we still have the most.
“Guys have a contract, so you can’t just cut them.
“We are working on that every single day – Pote [Human], myself and Alfons [Meyer] – and my other staff are also helping with the contracting now. We have a completely new recruitment model where all my coaches are involved, from Pote right down to the other coaches. They are all responsible to look at talent, locally and overseas, so they all have responsibilities and specific jobs.
“Everybody is involved, it isn’t a case of you have a player arriving here and you don’t know why or a player leaves and you don’t know why he left. That has changed completely now and has started to run, but it will take time to sort this out.
“I’ve made a decision that if we send somebody away, a young player that is here and he is not going to be part of our new plan, i will make sure that we place him somewhere where he can carry on with his rugby, that is the least we can do. The parents sent their boy to us.”
This change in tact could well see other South African unions welcome an influx of young talent, with the Bulls keen to move on contracts or loan players out to some of their local rivals.
The likes of Handre Pollard, Hanro Liebenberg, Warrick Gelant and Jesse Kriel all played their youth rugby elsewhere in South Africa, taking up contracts in Pretoria after finishing school and have been success stories of the Bulls’ proactive approach.
Watch: The Bulls’ post-match press conference after beating the Sharks
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