Bulls director of rugby Jake White admits he was taken by surprise when it was revealed to him that youngster Cameron Hanekom is eligible to play for Wales.
The 21-year-old back-row has impressed in the early rounds of the United Rugby Championship as the Bulls prepare for their next clash with Cardiff on Friday.
Hanekom has been named on the bench for the match and will wear jersey number 24, this because the back-specific 23 shirt is too small for the number eight.
News a shock to White
Ahead of the fixture at the Arms Park, White has revealed he was caught by surprise when hearing of Hanekom’s eligibility for Wales during training this week.
“I didn’t know until one of the BBC commentators told me at training!” he explained. “He said ‘Did you know this kid is Welsh qualified?’ and the next day I read in the paper he’s got a grandmother who qualifies him for the Welsh team.
“I think that’s a sign of the times. I don’t think it’s going to be the last time we get a player in South Africa that’s qualified for another country. Obviously, he’s a great talent. He was voted the best player in a U20s tournament a couple of years back. He’s still only 21.”
White added: “He’s been a good find for the public, but we knew he was in our system and that it was always inevitable he would come through into our mix.”
The Bulls boss was quick to play down Hanekom or any other player’s chances of being fast-tracked into an international team, should he be targeted by a country.
“There are some really good loose forwards coming through for Wales, if I look at Jac Morgan, Taine Plumtree. So I don’t think it’s a fait accomplis that just because you qualify to play for Wales that you will necessarily get picked to play for Wales,” he continued.
“It’s a great honour to play for your country and I can’t see that just because you qualify you therefore get an easier ride into playing international rugby.”
The Bulls are in third position in the URC standings after wins over the Scarlets and Zebre Parma, with White pleased with their start to the campaign thus far.
Positive start for Bulls
“I am feeling pretty positive. I am happy where we are,” he said. “There is a nice blend between senior pros and some of the youngsters, while we’ve made some quality signings.
“But you can’t take anything for granted in this league. It is so close and so competitive. I see the BKT URC as a real positive. I’d like to win it! We got to the final in the first year, and last season we got knocked out by the DHL Stormers, who got to the final again.”
He added: “In the first year of the BKT URC, I don’t think our fans understood what European rugby was like, but this is year three now. When we play our home games in the Champions Cup, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get 40-50,000 at those because of the whole groundswell of BKT URC and playing in Europe. It’s really taken off.”