Bulls sign SA U20 star
The Blue Bulls Rugby Union have pulled off another coup by signing top SA under-20 lock Paul Willemse from the Golden Lions.
Willemse is the second SA under-20 player signed since the national junior team won the IRB Junior World Championships, and will join his flyhalf Handre Pollard in Pretoria next year after the latter signed to move to Pretoria from Western Province.
But in Willemse’s case, the move is a big loss for the Lions, who already have their hands full with disciplinary measures for their coach John Mitchell, while their Super Rugby future is still uncertain.
Willemse burst onto the Super Rugby scene earlier this year, making a marked impact in his debut game for the Lions and putting in some massive hits, most notably on Cheetahs strongman Ashley Johnson.
He overcame a slow start at the Junior World Champs to secure a starting spot for the Baby Boks and was an integral part of the team that won the IRB tournament in spectacular fashion.
With the Bulls already short on No 4 locks, Willemse is seen as the perfect back-up to Flip van der Merwe and to be groomed into the enforcer role much as Bakkies Botha used to display at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls have capitalised on the uncertainty of the Lions Super Rugby status, and Willemse joins former teammate Grant Hattingh in Pretoria after the latter made the move at the end of the Super Rugby season.
Golden Lions acting CEO Ruben Moggee confirmed the move, although the Bulls still have to formally announce it.