Cape Town – Bulls centre Jesse Kriel is confident the Pretoria franchise will be able to overcome an impending player exodus.
The Bulls finished as the best-placed South African outfit in this year’s Super Rugby competition, before bowing out in a narrow 35-28 defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
It was close, but no cigar, and one would’ve expected Bulls fans to have been upbeat for the future.
Sadly, the Bulls look set to be stripped of several stars who will be seeking greener pastures at the end of the 2019 season.
They look likely to lose the likes of Kriel, Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman, Duane Vermeulen, (all to Japan), Handre Pollard (Montpellier), Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks), Eli Snyman (Treviso) and Hanro Liebenberg (Leicester Tigers) to overseas deals.
The loss of these big-name players will no doubt be dearly felt, but Kriel is confident that the Bulls have the right structures in place.
“I think Pote (Human, head coach) and his team are working on getting a few more experienced players in. If you look at the make-up of the squad, there is an unbelievable amount of youth and talent,” the 40-Test capped Springbok told Sport24 in an exclusive interview.
“The experience will be vital going into Super Rugby next year and I’m positive that the boys will make the necessary step up. A perfect example is Morne Steyn – he will come back and be able to teach the guys so much from all of his years playing whilst also adding huge value on the field with his game.”
It was Human’s first season in charge of the Super Rugby team, having replaced John Mitchell who abruptly left the union last year to become England’s defence coach.
Mitchell was the Bulls’ executive of rugby and Human had worked alongside the New Zealander prior to taking over the reins.
Kriel insisted that Mitchell’s departure had not left a bad taste and that he was still collaborating with the Bulls coaching staff.
“Pote and John, alongside the whole management, complimented each other very well and they were a great team. I know that they still chat and discuss rugby up until this day.
“Mitch actually presented us with our jerseys in Durban which was great. Pote has carried on driving systems that they both put in place last year and I think the continuity in that is what gave us success this year.”
The vastly-experienced Alan Zondagh also stepped in as director of rugby following Mitchell’s departure and Kriel added that his influence would reap rewards in the long run.
“Alan obviously has a lot of experience in coaching and has been a great addition to the Bulls. He hasn’t had too much to do with the Super Rugby team itself but he has been hard at work on developing junior players and priming them with his team to make the step up to Super Rugby,” Kriel concluded.