Pretoria - The Blue Bulls have put the disappointment of missing out on the Currie Cup playoffs behind them and have found delight in the young talent they have developed during this year’s competition.
In his first year in charge of the Blue Bulls, coach Pine Pienaar had a tough task of blooding new players and keeping the team competitive.
The side had a final stab at qualifying for the playoffs on Friday when the Bulls comprehensively beat the Leopards 92-21 in Pretoria.
Western Province, however, poured cold water on their ambitions as they beat the Pumas in Cape Town to secure the fourth-place with one log-point separating them from the Bulls.
"I think all the players put their hands up tonight [Friday] but there were a number of young players who got an opportunity to play Currie Cup and did well," said Pienaar.
"Especially players like Arno [Botha] and CJ [Stander] played really good rugby and I think that really excites us about the future.
"It is always great to see those kind of players in the Currie Cup and know it will give you depth for the Super15."
Pienaar said the new-found talent will keep players who are regulars in certain positions on their toes and add pressure for them to perform.
He, however, said advancing to the playoffs would have been the first prize and they gave themselves some hope with Friday’s performance.
"One thing that I can say is that at one stage we were bottom of the log and the guys stuck together and showed a lot of commitment.
"We fought our way out of that hole and gave ourselves an opportunity. Unfortunately, last weekend we did not play that well and Griquas punished us for that," said Pienaar.
The Bulls' captain Gary Botha, who played in his last match for the Pretoria-based side, said the youngsters in the team had picked-up a wealth of experience during the season.
"Luckily, the young guys learnt different things this year. They’ve played pressure games like the ones at Newlands, the opening match against the Sharks, away against Griquas and now the match at Loftus to put 90 points on the board," said Botha.
The skipper said the players had grown in stature, which boded well for the team’s future.
"I think there are loads of young players who have come through but we said at the beginning of the season that we are not in a building phase and have to compete and win cups," he said.
"Unfortunately, the position we are in is not acceptable for Blue Bulls standards, we nevertheless gained experience out of it."
The 30-year-old Botha has signed a two-and-a-half year contract with French club Toulouse, but said he could still make a return to the Bulls at the conclusion of his spell in France.
"I played for two years in England and came back with some tricks and hopefully I can come back with some more," said Botha.
"I received another opportunity and will not play for another union other than the Bulls."