The Bulls “connection” at the Lions seemingly continues to grow unabated.
In a trend that started way back in 2013 when coaches Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin went hunting for bargains, 2020 sees scrumhalf Andre Warner and flank Roelof Smit being the latest men to cross the Jukskei from Loftus.
They follow hot on the heels of utility back Duncan Matthews, who joined during last year’s Currie Cup, and wing Jamba Ulengo, hoping to restart a stalled career due to injuries.
The presence of two Springbok scrumhalves in Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl made it rather inevitable that Warner would seek other pastures, but he’s quickly felt “at home”.
“It helps to have a few other former Bulls players here. But I also have to mention that I played together with and against a few others at the Lions down the years. It’s not a case of you having long chats with them after matches, but you get to know them quite well, even as opponents,” he said.
Thrust into the position of starting scrumhalf in the past weekend’s Superhero Sunday meeting against the selfsame Bulls, Warner said it wasn’t really an awkward feeling to play against his old team.
“I didn’t really focus on that. I was just intent on doing my bit for my new team. I don’t talk too much to the opposition during a game. You maybe just say ‘hi’, but there are a few chats usually after the battle game we normally have a few chats.”
The nimble Matthews, who actually asked to be released a year early from the Loftus agreement, was more vocal about his new surroundings.
“To be honest, it’s been the best few months of my life. The people here are great,” he said.
“It’s been a dream. I’ve gone from not making the team at the Bulls to being immediately trusted with playing in a ‘new’ position at centre, in a Currie Cup final, where I haven’t played in some years.”
Matthews duly backed up those words with deeds by scoring a brace of tries at FNB Stadium … a good sign.