Pretoria - The major surprise in Bulls coach John Mitchell's 38-man Super Rugby squad is the omission of Springbok Rudy Paige.
READ: Bulls name co-captains for Super Rugby
Mitchell announced his squad at Loftus on Monday, and the obvious question to follow was: "Where is Rudy Paige?"
Just 28-years-old and with 13 Test caps to his name, Paige still has a lot to offer despite currently recovering from a groin injury.
Paige is expected to be fit again by the end of February, but if he does play Super Rugby this year it probably won't be for the Bulls.
"When it comes to selecting a Super Rugby side it takes time. This has taken a lot longer than I would like normally," Mitchell explained.
"It was very important for me not to be hasty and to make sure that I had enough information on players' standards.
"He (Paige) has been fantastic for the club. He's made it his life in recent years and has given a lot, but I just thought it was time to move forward with the young No 9s. I like a very fast No 9 and certainly all the No 9s that we've selected have that ability."
READ: S15 - Early tighthead trauma for SA sides
Mitchell has backed the halfback trio of Ivan van Zyl (22), Andre Warner (24) and Embrose Papier (20).
He is particularly excited by Papier.
"Embrose is an up and coming, potentially world class scrumhalf," said Mitchell.
"He's demonstrated that ... and I just think it's time for him to start his Super Rugby career."
Paige has been heavily linked with a move to the Lions in the off-season, but Mitchell would not rule out the possibility of him turning out for the Bulls again.
"He's recovering from injury and has just recently got married as well. He's got a lot going on in his life," said Mitchell.
"Should we get injuries then we're very fortunate to have somebody of his experience.
"He's a very infectious, enthusiastic guy as well. It was difficult sitting him down and telling him the news but he's taken it as well as anyone could."
Bulls 2018 Super Rugby squad:
Outside Backs: Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Travis Ismaiel, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling, Divan Rossouw
Midfielders: Burger Odendaal, JT Jackson, Francois Brummer, Jesse Kriel, Johnny Kotze
Flyhalves: Handre Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Manie Libbok
Halfbacks: Ivan van Zyl, Andre Warner, Embrose Papier
Loose forwards: Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Hendre Stassen, Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten, Nic de Jager, Tim Agaba
Locks: Jason Jenkins, Ruben van Heerden, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Aston Fortuin
Props: Pierre Schoeman, Conraad van Vuuren, Frans van Wyk, Matthys Basson, Lizo Gqoboka, Trevor Nyakane
Hookers: Jaco Visagie, Adriaan Strauss, Edgar Marutlulle