Pretoria - The Bulls have named 46 players in their Super Rugby squad for the 2017 season, including injured skipper Adriaan Strauss and new signings Johnny Kotze (Stormers), Jacques Potgieter (Sharks) and Conraad van Vuuren (Free State Cheetahs).
Potgieter, who re-joins the Bulls after stints with the Waratahs, Sharks and Japan’s Sanix Blues, is one of 12 Springboks in the squad, with Namibian international, Renaldo Bothma, adding further international experience.
Adriaan Strauss, who retired from international rugby at the end of last year, will again lead the side, but with the hooker recovering from back surgery and not expected back for the opening weeks of the tournament, Handre Pollard will take the reins.
The Springbok pivot missed all of last year through injury, but is now fully recovered.
Strauss (132 matches) is by far the most experienced player in the squad, with Trevor Nyakane (70), and Piet van Zyl (68) the only other players past 50 caps.
Jan Serfontein (48) and Arno Botha (46) could pass that milestone soon while a number of new faces could debut in 2017.
Luther Obi, Jade Stighling, JT Jackson, Tony Jantjies, Duncan Matthews, Kefentse Mahlo, Sibahle Maxwane and Andre Warner are the backs that could make their first Super Rugby appearances, while forwards Shaun Adendorff, Ruan Steenkamp, Conraad van Vuuren, John-Roy Jenkinson and Corniel Els could also feature in the competition for the first time.
Prop Martin Dreyer did play for the Stormers in previous seasons, but has not yet played for the Bulls in the competition.
Bulls coach, Nollis Marais, is excited about the season and expressed happiness with the squad.
“It is exciting times for us and we are keen to get going. A lot of the players have experienced Super Rugby last season for the first time, so they will have a much better understanding of what to expect. We have one or two players out with injury still, but that gives another guy the opportunity to grow and gain experience,” Marais said.
Bulls squad for 2017:
Ulrich Beyers, Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel*, Travis Ismaiel, Luther Obi, Jamba Ulengo*, Jade Stighling, Duncan Matthews, Kefentse Mahlo, Sibahle Maxwane, Johnny Kotze, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, JT Jackson, Jan Serfontein*, Francois Brummer, Tony Jantjies, Tian Schoeman, Handre Pollard*, Ivan van Zyl, Piet van Zyl*, Rudy Paige*, Andre Warner
Hanro Liebenberg, Arno Botha*, Nick de Jager, Renaldo Bothma**, Jannes Kirsten, Jacques Potgieter*, Roelof Smit***, Shaun Adendorff, Ruan Steenkamp, Lood de Jager*, RG Snyman***, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane*, Conraad van Vuuren, John-Roy Jenkinson, Martin Dreyer, Jacobie Adriaanse, Pierre Schoeman, Lizo Gqoboko***, Adriaan Strauss*, Edgar Marutlulle, Corniel Els, Jaco Visagie
** Namibian international
*** Springbok tourist v Barbarians
Players in: Johnny Kotze (Stormers), Jacques Potgieter (Sharks), Conraad van Vuuren (Free State).
Players out: SP Marais, Bjorn Basson, Dan Kriel (all Stormers), Lappies Labuschagne, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh (all Japan), Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Marcel van der Merwe (both France), Werner Kruger (Wales), Callie Visagie, Bandise Maku (retired)