Bulls set to lose another young star
Johannesburg - The Vodacom Bulls stand to lose the services of another rising star in their ranks, as former SA under-20 captain William Small-Smith officially requested permission to negotiate with other provinces.
According to supersport.com, Small-Smith's contract ends in October and the talented midfielder is looking for a new home after minimal game time at the Bulls.
Small-Smith was in the initial Bulls squad, but an injury early in the season allowed Burger Odendaal to pass him in the pecking order, with the Bulls disregarding the form he is in when selecting for their Vodacom Super Rugby tour overseas. It is understandable that he would be frustrated at his development being stunted by not playing at Super Rugby level.
It is supersport.com’s information that there is a lot of interest in Small-Smith from outside Pretoria, with both the Cell C Sharks and Toyota Cheetahs set to make offers when the negotiation process opens.
Currently Small-Smith cannot negotiate with any other province until July 1 unless given permission by the Blue Bulls Company.
It is likely the Bulls will try and fight Small-Smith's decision by using a clause in the contract that says they have the right to match any offer, but as in the case of Bongi Mbonambi - who was in a similar spot last season before accepting a contract at the DHL Stormers - it will be difficult to keep him in Pretoria if he doesn't want to stay.
If he does leave it will be another young talent lost by the Bulls because of lack of game time. Some inexplicable selections, including in the overseas tour squad, have meant that Small-Smith has played most of his rugby in the Vodacom Cup this year.
While he scored three tries in the quarterfinal win over the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, Small-Smith was not included in the touring squad, nor called up when fellow midfielder Jan Serfontein was injured, with the Bulls opting for Jurgen Visser to head overseas.
Ironically the Bulls struggle with depth at 13, with JJ Engelbrecht the only player they've used in the position all season, and set to be heading overseas to Japan at the end of the year.
Engelbrecht is still in discussions to conclude a return to the Bulls for next season, but if that fails, there is little cover at 13 with experience for the Pretoria side.
Marqiet September played well in this year's Vodacom Cup but has yet to play both Super Rugby and Absa Currie Cup while Jesse Kriel is the other option at 13, but has been playing 15 all season long.
Small-Smith referred all questions to his lawyer Gerrie Swart, who "elected not to comment on the truthfulness of the request to negotiate with third parties before the transfer window, the interest in William from third parties and that it is a given that William is leaving the Province."
The Bulls High Performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg confirmed via message from Australia, where he is with the Bulls team, that the Bulls declined to comment on the matter.