Bulls locks lay down Lood 'warning'
Cape Town - Perhaps the biggest news of the rugby week so far has been the confirmation that Lood de Jager is on his way to Loftus.
The reports beforehand were that the 23-year-old Springbok was set to join either the Bulls or the Lions, but in the end De Jager was lured to Pretoria.
Coach Nollis Marais has fielded a young pack this season, and with Super Rugby 2017 set to pit the Bulls against the New Zealand franchises, Springbok experience will be incredibly valuable.
De Jager is still young himself, but he has been highly-rated for years already and boasts the pedigree at the highest level.
Despite their lack of tested depth, the Bulls second row has been in good hands this season with RG Snyman (21) and Jason Jenkins (20) proving impressive.
The pair's form earned them both a call-up to the SA 'A' side that played against the England Saxons in June, and they are considered two of the most promising young talents in the country.
So, with De Jager's figure looming large, it is difficult not to think about the make-up of this Bulls side next season.
After having a year where they were thrown into the deep end, Snyman and Jenkins have grown immensely.
The prospect of making way for De Jager is surely not one that either player is ready to entertain.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais, speaking after announcing his side for Saturday's clash against the Sunwolves, was asked what message the De Jager signing would send to the young locks already in the squad.
The coach's response was comical, but also indicative of the hunger that these young Bulls have to succeed.
"I had a sit down with them beforehand. I had a conversation with RG and Jason and explained the situation we were in," said Marais.
"If you’re looking at playing the New Zealand sides next year and you want to be better prepared … we don’t want to sit in the same situation.
"They knew exactly what was going to happen, and RG and Jason both said to me: 'Coach, it’s just a shame you’re bringing Lood here to sit on the bench for the two of us'."
Of course, that will never happen.
As good as De Jager is as an impact player, his experience, physicality and lineout work all combine to make him a major signing for this young Bulls side.
"When I started last year I received a lot of players and
that was the squad I had," Marais said.
"I didn’t get enough time to start negotiating with
new players. With a lot of players leaving (at the end of 2016) I knew that I had to bulk up the
team, especially up front as well.
"I think he will be a great asset to us, but
also in saying that if you look Marvin (Orie), Jason and RG have been playing … they’re
going to be tremendous players down the line.
"If you can bring somebody with
Lood’s experience … he’s also only 23 … you’re looking at maybe the top four
locks going forward.
"We needed a bit more experience."
The Bulls are still in with a chance of making the Super Rugby playoffs, but they need the Cheetahs to beat the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.