Sibusiso Mjikeliso - Sport24
Reports, rumours and ramblings have been flying about regarding who might come or go at Loftus following former Springbok coach Jake White's arrival as Bulls director of rugby.
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If they are to be believed, what could White's coaching "Dream Team" look like? We take a look.
Allister Coetzee - Assistant (backline and attack)
Depending on how much of an axe to grind "Toetie" has, he will leap at the chance to partner up with his old mate, Jake. As head coach and backline coach, White and Coetzee (along with forwards coach Gert Smal) guided the Springboks to their second World Cup triumph in 2007 in France.
There are few people on the planet that White is enamoured with; Coetzee and Smal rank high in that most exclusive of lists. Coetzee was backed by White to succeed him in the Bok job in 2008, which went to Peter de Villiers instead.
Coetzee eventually got his chance in 2016 but the results were disastrous. He was perhaps in chance of South Africa's worst two-year period since readmission, posting record Bok defeats to New Zealand and Ireland and losing for the first time to Italy. It's that stint that will have him fired up to redeem himself and get people to see him as the Coetzee that led the Stormers to a Super Rugby final and multiple semi-final appearances and SA conference titles - instead of the Springbok coach who took 50-plus points twice to the All Blacks.
He's a free man after leaving Japan side Canon Eagles but it's touch-and-go whether he sees himself as White's understudy again. Smal did it when he went from being director of rugby at Western Province and the Stormers to coach forwards at White's previous club Toyota Verblitz.
By the 2023 season, regardless of who stays or goes, the duo has the experience, coaching nous and the mastery to make the Bulls Super Rugby title contenders again.
Joey Mongalo - Assistant (defence)
Defence coaches set the playing blueprint for entire organisations, from the juniors right up to the seniors. And this is the ideal role for former Lions defence coach Mongalo to establish himself as a well-rounded strategist that can transform the union and franchise from top to bottom.
Initially, not all of this will be on his plate but will rest with the incoming director of rugby. During this induction period, Mongalo's role will be to learn as much as he can from White and soak in his head-coaching expertise for the day he is able to stand on his own.
So far he has made good strides to develop into a head coach, such as completing his honours in industrial psychology (cum laude) at the University of Johannesburg, which won't hurt his effort to better understand high performance athletes.
But it's as defence coach where the Bulls will need him to be at his best. The Lions defence crumbled in the opening weeks of Super Rugby this year following Mongalo's exit in 2019, which showed just how a key a cog he was to the machinery at Ellis Park.
This year, Mongalo put his defence skills to the test with the Wits team that was third on the Varsity Cup log and unbeaten after five matches before the Covid-19 pandemic ended the season prematurely.
This would be a homecoming for Mongalo as well, who earned his stripes at nearby Pretoria Boys' High School where he was part of the side that engineered the school's first win over its fierce foes Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool (Affies) in 2003 after 18 long and painful years.
With the 35-year-old's assault case thrown out by the Australian courts and firmly behind him, his return to familiar Pretoria surrounds would add a feel-good factor to Bulls fans and having "one of their own" in the setup.
Fourie du Preez - Consultant (Skills)
Speaking of home favourites, Du Preez would be the glue that binds Bulls fans to White's new era. Fans aren't yet exactly sure what to expect from a coach who was known to have a sticky relationship with their heroes, such as Victor Matfield and Du Preez.
Du Preez could quickly get them back onside and hopefully (once we are all allowed to socialise again) back into the stands.
But it's Du Preez's untapped expertise as probably the most technically and tactically sound halfback South Africa has ever produced that will make him vital to the repair job underway at Loftus. As a player, he could affect games with with a single flick of a rugby ball or a cutting pass that would cleave opposition defences open. He had the vision of a drone whenever he scanned the playing field and the prospect of tapping into that brain is salivating, to say the least.
While many might think his return to Loftus is a pipe dream because of the enmity that once prevailed between him and White at the Boks, White said recently that he would be open to coaxing legends such as Du Preez or Matfield to join his coaching team.
"There's no doubt that ex Bulls players who can add value I'm gonna be tapping them on the shoulder," White said. "When I was at the Brumbies I used George Gregan a lot. Fourie doesn't want to coach but I'm sure the knowledge and experience he has, even if it's an hour with players, will add massive amounts of value."
Russell Winter - Assistant (forwards)
Winter is an accomplished forwards coach whose reputation probably was a little hindered by the directionless tenure of Robbie Fleck's Stormers.
Under the original terms, Winter was meant to be Eddie Jones' right-hand man at the Stormers, a dream appointment for anyone still perfecting their coaching craft. However, when Jones made a beeline for England shortly after being unveiled as Stormers coach, Winter was stuck with the patchwork management team that the Stormers put together to cushion that blow.
The Stormers forwards were a force, however, from the time Winter joined the province late in 2015 to 2019 and he can be credited with helping Johan Ackermann build strong foundations at the Lions during his time as forwards coach and Golden Lions Vodacom Cup and Under-21 coach. Him and Mongalo struck a good partnership under Hugo van As at Wits as well this year, signs that they could carry that partnership into the Bulls team.
Depending on how much turmoil is wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic, and which contracts are lost or salvaged, Winter could find himself coaching one of the best front rows in Super Rugby.
Boks Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane have been nothing short of excellent in the past two years in Pretoria. Losses of RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins and Lood de Jager, however, decimated the rest of the forward pack. But Duane Vermeulen's return this June should give Winter a tad more than bare bones to work with, if he's confirmed as forwards coach of course.