Bulls are on the rocks - but perhaps that’s the best thing
With intelligent recruitment and savvy financial management the new CEO might revive the brand
Could the Bulls be on the cusp of something really good from 2019 onwards?
Only time will tell and that’ll depend on who they appoint as their new chief executive and the vision they bring.
The Bulls did well to jump the misfiring SA gun by announcing a wider Super Rugby playing group. All they need now is a coach, but more importantly a chief executive and a board with fresh ideas to move the franchise from its glorious, but equally laboured past into an era that can define the Bulls in a different manner.
They were mould breakers in the mid-to-late 2000s but the rugby train has moved to different stations in so many aspects.
It’s no secret that Deon Davids and Victor Matfield are front-runners for the Bulls job while the reliable and rejuvenated Gerhard “Pote” Human is a distant third.
The jury is deservedly out on Matfield because he hasn’t coached consistently at the highest level while Davids and Human are proven contenders.
The key to their success will not only lie in how they deal with high-performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg, but the person who’ll be replacing the outgoing and experienced incumbent CEO Barend van Graan. It would be unfair to call Van Graan a relic, but he’s overseen the ups and downs of the union. At some point, renewal had to be a necessity.
Ajee Valentine, Arni van Rooyen and Eugene Henning are the men on the inside lane to replace Van Graan. All three have reasonable enough rugby-related experience to hold their own. However, the current rugby landscape, which is drying rapidly from a financial perspective, requires a different outlook. With every franchise/union having to deal with player cuts in the not too distant future, intelligent recruitment and savvy (and legal) financial management will have to be the imperatives the new CEO will have to come with.
The Bulls brand is one that still reverberates in rugby followers’ hearts but it’s also suffering from fiscal consequences far beyond its control. Every SA franchise is on the rocks from a financial perspective and the knock-on effect will be felt by the full line of employees throughout the union. The Bulls recently had to release some coaching staff and, with their extensive and in the past successful junior programme, when the financial grim reaper comes calling there will be casualties.
Less, though, can be more and this could be the best thing for the Bulls.
When empires expand, they also open themselves up to ruin through ambition, which most of the time is well-meaning.
The current financial landscape doesn’t allow for expansion, but if the next chief executive has the serious grey matter and is the lateral thinker, growing the brand can be possible despite the financial environment.
With the strength of the squad the Bulls are currently putting out, this group can bring back the crowds before the trophies start coming. However, silverware is won in the boardroom through sound planning and decision-making. 2010 is eight years ago and the ground beneath Loftus Versfeld has long shifted in so many ways. If the Bulls don’t catch up now, chances are they’ll miss the bus for the foreseeable future.