Bulls coach Jake White may be looking forward to substantially boosting his backline stocks in the coming weeks, but his forward strength took a major knock on Monday with the confirmation that star flank Marco van Staden will be leaving at the end of June.
The Springbok openside will be joining Leicester Tigers, robbing the Bulls of his superb fetching prowess, tenacious work-rate and general intensity that is reminiscent of a honey badger.
“Marco is a phenomenal player, and is probably one of the most complete No. 6s in the world currently. Situations like these are always met with mixed emotions, I never want to lose a player of his calibre, but I’m also excited and proud of the player he has become. We wish him all the best with his journey ahead and know he will grow from strength to strength and will be a massive asset for Leicester,” White said.
It means that while White is contemplating the arrival of Springboks Johan Goosen and Damian Willemse to boost his impressive backline, he has gaps to fill up front.
“It’s no secret that we are looking at Damian and Johan could be coming too. With the likes of Stravino Jacobs, who I think could be an explosive centre too, Madosh Tambwe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Travis Ismail on the wings, Gio Aplon back, David Kriel, Embrose Papier, Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans, Damian Willemse at fullback, there are lot of permutations with the backline.
“But I am looking at one or two locks to strengthen the squad, probably a No. 4 who can double as a No. 7. We’re trying our best to get a squad that is really balanced and can beat any of the top squads overseas that have full internationals on their bench. It’s about building a team, the Bulls want to create a really good squad with players who can become Springboks,” White said on Monday.
But having attracted the interest of such big-name talents, it is inevitable with a player cap of 45 that some players will have to be let go and White said these discussions are taking place. Clinton Swart, who was signed last July to some acclaim having played under White at Toyota Verblitz, is one of the players the coach is sorry to have to let go.