On 10 July Jono Ross, former Tuks 1 captain and a key member of the Tuks squad which brought home the Varsity Cup trophy, travelled to the UK for trials with English rugby franchise Saracens. Ross’s contract with the Blue Bulls was up for review in October, but he had two weeks to prove his worth to the 2010/2011 Aviva Premiership champions.
Ross has represented the Blue Bulls at Vodacom Cup level, but has been down the pecking order of the Pretoria-based club, which has a flurry of highly rated loose forwards such as Deon Stegman, Dewald Potgieter and Bulls captain Pierre Spies. With this list of established loose forwards and some talented youngsters coming through the ranks such as Jean Cook and CJ Stander, Ross has been unable to break into the Bulls’ Super Rugby and Currie Cup squads. It is for this reason that when the hastily arranged offer for trials came his way, Bulls management concluded it would be best to allow him to take the opportunity. “We thought it would be best for Ross, as he had the opportunity and we didn’t want to stand in his way,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke told SuperSport.
After a fortnight of trials, which included the Asset Management Premiership Rugby Sevens match against London Wasps at Twickenham, Ross was awarded a six-month contract with Saracens. He joined former UCT Ikeys captain Nick Fenton-Wells, who has also signed a six-month deal with Saracens which commenced at the start of July. Ross is the second former Tuks player to leave the Bulls this year in search of greener pastures overseas. Daniel Adongo, who has seen little game time with the Bulls, was released by the club earlier this month. The 23-year-old was quickly snapped up by New Zealand outfit Counties Manukau, pending a few formalities. The Bulls have been highly criticised by some members of the media for releasing Adongo from his contract, with well-acclaimed writer Brendan Nel reportedly calling the move “inexplicable”.
Since the inception of the Varsity Cup, the exposure of young players has been high in recent years. A large number of the Tuks 1 team is also under contract with the Blue Bulls, but many of these young players have struggled to make it into the first team. The players’departure to Europe has been a trend in the Bulls camp this year, with team icons such as Gary Botha, Danie Rossouw, Fourie du Preez and Bakkies Botha having left the club at the end of last year to ply their trade in Europe and Japan. Youngster CJ Stander, a player that has turned heads in this year’s Super Rugby season, will reportedly also be leaving Loftus Versfeld for Munster after the 2012 Absa Currie Cup campaign. Ross now joins the growing list of South African rugby players to have left the country in search of better things overseas. Ross is expected to feature for the “Sarries” in the 2012/2013 Aviva Premiership season which kicks off on 1 September.
See our interview with Jono Ross (Perdeby 13 February) at the beginning of the year here.
Photo: Kobus Barnard