'Extraordinary case' made Charlie Ewels irresistible to the Bulls
Bulls boss Jake White has explained that their temporary signing of England lock Charlie Ewels is an “extraordinary case”, insisting that it won’t open the floodgates for overseas players to come and play their rugby in South Africa. The 27-year-old Bath lock hasn’t played since his serious training ground knee injury with England last June.
His Gallagher Premiership club have just three games remaining this season in a campaign that will conclude on May 6. That limited schedule would leave Ewels without enough comeback games to demonstrate to new England head coach Steve Borthwick that he can play a capable part at Rugby World Cup 2023.
It’s a situation that has resulted in Bath boss Johann van Graan facilitating a short-term arrangement with his former club Bulls for Ewels to get some Currie Cup action in the coming months so that the second row is better placed to challenge for England inclusion.
It is a big deal, an England international moving to the southern hemisphere to get match minutes in his legs, but Bulls coach White doesn’t believe this will now open the door to a slew of non-South African players coming to rugby for the franchises.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “This is an extraordinary case. This is about a guy who is 27 years old and trying to get into the World Cup squad. He has a relationship with us through people we know at Bath, he wants to play rugby and we are just happy to have him here.
“I don’t think this is the way forward. I can’t see international players wanting to come and play here when they can earn the salaries they earn overseas. I don’t think it would be fair the way we make up our squads to pick all these overseas-based players. We already have restricted numbers; we already have transformation changes we have got to put into place.
“I can’t see there is going to be an abundance of overseas players coming into our setup. This is a very unique situation – and one that we would like to use in our favour.”
Ewels hasn’t been cleared just yet to feature in the URC, the tournament where the Bulls, last year’s beaten finalists, are currently seventh with just two regular-season games remaining before the playoffs. In the Currie Cup, though, the Bulls still have nine regular-season matches left, a schedule that would take Ewels through to June 10 with the Pretoria-based club before the finals.
“I don’t think he is allowed to play in URC,” explained White. “We are still trying to find some paperwork that we need to do and when we get that paperwork, he could quite possibly be available sooner rather than later. But at this point in time, we are still waiting for paperwork.
“It’s a bit of a double win. Firstly, we get a player like him, 30 tests for England, 111 games for Bath, captained the England junior side, won a Junior World Cup – so a lot of experience. Very good in the lineout, so that is a win for us. And for him, he is trying really hard to get into the World Cup set up.
“He needs to play some games, needs to have some rugby under his belt, and it’s very fortunate that if we can get the two married together, he is a gain for us and hopefully we can help him play good rugby and get himself into the mix for the World Cup.”
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