Annoyed, outraged, furious and sad…these are just some of the words that come to mind, to mention but a few, especially when you are a #trueblue Vodacom Bulls supporter in 2017.
It’s been almost 7 years and counting since the Bulls or Blue Bulls for that matter have won either a Super Rugby or Currie Cup title and fans and supporters alike are getting, as they would say in plain Afrikaans, GATVOL!
For at least the past two seasons we have had to hear that the team is rebuilding but when you look at how things have gone, besides the 2016 Currie Cup, one sees the complete opposite.
Following their shocking defeat to the Sunwolves in Tokyo this past weekend, we have taken it upon ourselves to speak out on behalf for the millions of supporters around the world that are passionate to wear the jersey and call ourselves Bulls supporters.
Ahead of the 2017 Super Rugby season everyone could not stop talking about the amazing pre-season the Bulls had and their high ambitions to compete this year, and now 6 games later the Bulls have a meagre 6 points to show with 1 scrappy win at Loftus over the Sunwolves, who only had a 17-day pre-season compared to most teams which had at least two months.
On Saturday Captain Adriaan Strauss woefully had to admit in his post-match interview, “We got outplayed most of the game.” No disrespect to the Sunwolves but the Bulls are three-time Super Rugby Champions and now seven years later we are making excuses week after week.
There is no doubt that we have the players on paper to beat almost anyone in the competition but rugby is played on grass might we remind ourselves.
What has happened to what use to be South Africa’s pride and glory? How could a team with so much talent go to nothing so quick? Where do the real problems of Bulls rugby lie?
Hardly 2 years ago in 2015, I had written a well publicised and much talked about Open Letter to the Bulls, which Blue Bulls Company CEO, Barend van Graan gladly replied to, and a week later the men from the Capital responded in spectacular fashion moving from 13th on the log of 15 teams to 2nd overall within eight weeks and finally losing out on the play-offs. This time I will not be doing the same, as we all know it will only fall on deaf ears and probably get sent to file 13. Either way, I am writing this whether it gets read or not.
Having read, seen and been sent countless articles, jokes, memes and videos on what people think of our team and enough is enough.
Let’s start off by asking why have we lost so many young quality players over the last four seasons? Players like Francois Hougaard, Paul Willemse, Jacques du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Lappies Labuschagne, JJ Engelbrecht, Morne Steyn…not to mention Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Courtnall Skosan, Franco Mostert, Andries Coetzee, Warwick Tecklenburg (who quit rugby this season) all plying their trade down the road with the Emirates Lions with great success. Simple answer, ask Xander Janse van Rensburg, Bulls High Performance Manager. Ask anyone in South African rugby circles who this man is and what his credentials are and all you get is shrugged shoulders. RED LIGHTS!!!!
The Bulls clearly have the money to invest in well blooded coaches with true performance records as they have their own perfume range and coffee brand not to mention all the other gimmicks they offer their diehard fans, yet we settled for a Varsity Cup coach instead.
Many people that know rugby keep asking the question, why is or has Jimmy Stonehouse not been an option for the Bulls? He did after all coach the Bulls Craven Week team on 2 occasions, so Loftus is no unfamiliar place to the man with 27 years of coaching experience. He has vast experience from school level all the way up to International level and his list of accolades far surpass almost any current coach in South Africa, yet he is not an option for Pretoria…yet.
Besides his lists of trophies and achievements, Stonehouse also had a hand in the grooming of current Springboks like Faf de Klerk, Vincent Koch, Uzair Cassiem and Sevens Bok-star Rosco Speckman, not to mention the list of Super Rugby stalwarts like Shaun Venter, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Renaldo Bothma who both are Namibian Internationals as well.
Stonehouse, who was named Coach of the Year in 2013 in South Africa, recently made it known that he longs to return home from Japan where he has been coaching from 2015 with great success. He took Toshiba Brave Lupus (Japan’s most decorated team) for the first time in 10 years to the final of the Japanese Top League in his first season which they ended losing at the death by 1 point.
So what is keeping him out of the corridors of Loftus Versfeld? Is it his no-nonsense approach to what he does? Are his standards too high for rugby in South Africa? If it is then it’s time we close the gates to what was once the most feared rugby venue in the world.
Until recently players and coaches from Currie Cup to International level alike would talk of how tough it is to go to Loftus, now every team salivates at the opportunity to come and beat the Bulls and Boks for that matter.
Stop begging us to come to your games, stop asking people to join your supporters club and stop making your financial problems ours if you aren’t doing anything to change. Support is a two-way street. One of the biggest problems not just at Loftus but in South African rugby is that many of the administrators and officials that are in charge of OUR game, yes rugby belongs to the people, have been in their positions for way too long and have become way to comfortable with the people around them and in the process have forgotten about why they were placed there in the first place. Many of our Unions have become castles with self-ruling kings or even dictatorships and Loftus is one such place.
I’m proud to call myself a Bulls supporter and I’m even a Supporters Club member, which I pay for monthly, yet in almost 2 years I have not benefitted once from anything they offer besides a club members cap, which I was told I need to go to a game to receive it. When I look at other franchise supporter clubs I see way more being done than what the Bulls offer for much less.
For years now supporters and fans of the Bulls have had to endure every joke imaginable under the sun, some funny, some old and some just outright uncalled for, and it’s time the BBC, Bulls management and players take responsibility for the humiliation of the people that adore and cherish them as super stars and ultimately pay their salaries.
Something that once was a cherished opportunity has now become a burden. Will anything be done? Will Coach Nollis and his staff do the right thing and step down? My guess is NO to all of the above and if anything I will probably get banned from Loftus…well so be it then but I will remain a Bull and stand up for my team and their supporters till the day I die!