Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen during the Currie Cup clash against the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban on 12 December 2020.

Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen during the Currie Cup clash against the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban on 12 December 2020.

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  • Duane Vermeulen will miss the Bulls’ campaign in the preparation series or “Franchise Cup” that starts next weekend due following knee surgery.
  • His absence forms part of a broader plan for Jake White to possibly test his depth ahead of the Rainbow Cup in April.
  • Sharks winger Madosh Tambwe is expected to be unveiled as the franchise’s latest signing on Friday.

The Bulls are expected to give their fringe players a run when the eight-team preparation series – colloquially known as the “Franchise Cup” – gets underway next weekend.

Only a selected group of players will return to training next week, while the majority of the squad that did duty in securing the Currie Cup title late in January will only start thereafter.

One high profile player who’ll be missing is regular skipper Duane Vermeulen.

The Springbok stalwart will be out for at least six weeks after Bulls boss Edgar Rathbone confirmed to Netwerk24 that Vermeulen had surgery on one of his knees to clear cartilage.

Nonetheless, it provides Jake White, the franchise’s director of rugby, an ideal opportunity to test his depth after generally sticking to a core group of players in last season’s programme, especially given that they start the “Franchise Cup” against Peter de Villiers’ Eastern Province Elephants.

Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s director of rugby, previously noted that the competition is considered a high performance measure to keep the players match fit before April’s Rainbow Cup, which will feature all the new PRO16 teams.

And conditioning as well as cultivating more varied skill sets is certainly something the Bulls will be focusing on in the next few weeks.

“With the upcoming PRO16, the biggest thing probably is that the ball-in-play in the tournament is, on average, 10-12 minutes longer than what we are currently managing,” John-William Meyer, the Bulls’ technical analyst, told a segment on the Bulls’ mobile app this week.

“That’s not necessarily just a conditioning issue, but we’ll have to change the mindset of how we have and want to train to ensure that we achieve that longer period of keeping the ball in play.”

That aspect was one of the biggest sources of criticism in terms of the standard of play that was dished up during the Currie Cup as most of the teams, understandably given the disruption caused by Covid-19, played safety-first rugby.

Meanwhile, the Bulls are expected to name Madosh Tambwe as their latest signing on Friday.

The Sharks winger – who only moved to Durban from the Lions in 2019 – has been on White’s radar for some time and has found himself squeezed out by the Durbanites’ contingent of Springboks in the position as well as the rise of Yaw Penxe.

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