Ospreys Bulls

The Osprey’s tourist guides, with Paul Williams - Vodacom Bulls

Most tourist guides give you the lowdown on the place you’re about to visit.  But ours is a bit different. We give you a quick tour of the team, not the place.


Vodacom Bulls





Things to see:

Vodacom Bulls’ ball carriers – The Vodacom Bulls have had the biggest impact on carrying since they introduced the 5p charge for plastic bags. It doesn’t matter who the Vodacom Bulls select in their back row, they have more legit ball carriers than arguably any other team in the BKT URC. Whether it’s Elrigh Louw or Marco Van Staden, the Vodacom Bulls always have a weapons grade ball carrier on their feet.

Ruan Nortje – Recently called into the Springbok squad and the new Vodacom Bulls captain, Nortje is one of the most skillful locks in the game. Slightly ‘rangier’ than your typical South African lock, Nortje is a throwback to the lighter more skillful locks of the amateur era. He’s more of an Ian Jones, or John Eels, than a Bakkies Botha. Nortje doesn’t just level rucks and rack up tackle stats, his offload game and support lines are superb. Think of him as a giant centre, who also jumps in the lineout.

Wandisile Simelane – Recently acquired form the Emirates Lions, Simelane is one of the most talented outside backs in South African rugby. Historically a centre but being played on the wing at the Vodacom Bulls, if you just look at a picture of him, you could snap your ankles. Along with Henco Van Wyk of the Lions, he’s the next generation of Bok centres.

Jake White’s brain – If there’s one number higher than the number of head coaching jobs which Jake White has applied for, it’s the quantity of creative quick-tap penalties that he creates. He’s a clever coach and one of the best at his craft.


Famous landmarks:

Bismark du Plessis. BdP is getting on a bit, but he can still cause chaos. He may no longer be a 60-minute hooker. But for 20 minutes, he’ll cause more problems than a Rassie video.


Things to avoid:

Getting suckered with a quick tap – The Vodacom Bulls are dripping with ball carriers. And when they’re close to the tryline, with a penalty, everyone assumes they’ll go direct. They often don’t. Using two or three angles and a short pass or two, the Vodacom Bulls will often move the ball around the immediate defensive shoulders, and head straight for some weaker arms.

Bulls’ lineout maul – All modern teams have an effective attacking lineout maul. But the Vodacom Bulls have levelled up on theirs. Keep an eye on the hooker Johann Grobbelaar, he scores more tries than a 1980s wing.

Conceding kickable penalties – The Vodacom Bulls’ goal kicker, Chris Smith is one of the most underrated players in South Africa. At 28, Smith is like Morne Steyn ‘light’. He’s a very accomplished goal kicker and will punish you should you concede kickable penalties. And when Chris Smith goes off, Morne Steyn usually comes on.


What to pack:

As many tacklers as you can fit in your suitcase – When you’re facing the Vodacom Bulls’ ball carriers, you need tacklers on an endless loop. In the same way that a great white’s shark’s teeth fall out, and then are immediately replaced, your defensive line needs to adapt the same approach.

Mental awareness – The Vodacom Bulls get an unfair reputation as a forward dominated team. That is no longer the case. Just when you’re looking for the big carry, the soft pass undoes your defence.

The realization that Morne Steyn, is still Morne Steyn – If you’ve ever seen the 1980’s film ‘Cocoon’, you’ll realise that Morne Steyn is probably swimming in pools full of alien larvae. How he is still able to perform, as a test level outside half, at 38 is ridiculous. His goal kicking is still sublime. He kicks 40m match winning penalties with the same regularity that Elon Musk posts tweets.