The extraordinary signing of England lock Charlie Ewels by the Vodacom Bulls is seen by Director of Rugby Jake White as a “double win” with the international likely to bolster the Bulls Currie Cup team this season but not play in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. Ewels signed for the Bulls on a short-term contract that will see him at Loftus until the end of the season but he wasn’t included in Friday’s Currie Cup squad because his paperwork hadn’t been finalised.
“We hope to see him sooner than later, as soon as the paperwork is done,” White said.
?? NEW SIGNING ALERT ??
We are proud to announce the signing of Lock Charlie Ewels on a short term deal ?? Ewels is a veteran of over 100 caps for Bath and 30 caps for England ?? pic.twitter.com/VjMzel9ktF— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) April 13, 2023
Asked as to the reasoning behind his signing, White said there were no losers.
“It’s a bit of a double win. Firstly, we get a player like him who has played 30 tests for England, 111 games for Bath, has captained the England junior side and won a Junior World Cup. So, he’s got a lot of experience, and very good in the lineout – so that’s a win for us,” White said.
“For him, he’s trying very hard to get into the World Cup set-up, and he needs to play some games and get some rugby under his belt. Hopefully we can get the two married together – he is a gain for us, and hopefully we can help him play good rugby and get himself into the mix for the World Cup.”
White also said he didn’t think this would be the start of an influx of players into South African URC squads.
“I think this is an extraordinary case. This is about a guy who is 27 years old, dying to get into the World Cup squad, and has a relationship with us through people we know at Bath,” he said.
“He wants to play rugby, and we are just happy to have him here. I don’t think this is the way forward. I can’t see international players wanting to come and play here when they can earn the salaries they earn overseas.
“I don’t think it would be fair, with the way we make up our squads, to pick all these overseas players here. We already have restrictive numbers, transformation charters we’ve got to put in place. I can’t see there’s going to be an abundance of overseas players coming into our set-up.
“I think this is a very unique situation, and obviously one that we would like to use in our favour.”
Meanwhile Bath confirmed Ewels’s move and said he would be back in time for the 2023/4 season.
"Charlie is an extremely professional and diligent member of our squad," Bath's head of rugby Johann van Graan said in a statement on their website.
"His attitude to his rehabilitation has been exemplary and the next step of his journey is getting back to playing competitive rugby. We feel the Bulls environment will benefit his game and it will be like having a new signing when he returns to the club in the summer."
???? @charlieewels has linked up with @BlueBullsRugby for game time after his long-term injury.
He will return to #BathRugby this summer ??
"I genuinely believe there is an exciting journey ahead of us and I’m committed to being a part of that." ??— Bath Rugby (@BathRugby) April 13, 2023
Ewels said he was looking forward to a "really exciting opportunity to be experiencing a new country and different competition".
"I'm extremely grateful for the support I've received from everyone here at Bath while I've been injured, particularly the medical and S&C (strength and conditioning) departments.
"I haven't played any rugby since June 2022 so to be able to gain some minutes with an unbelievable franchise like the Bulls is going to be a fantastic experience. I want to soak up as much as I can while I'm in Pretoria before returning to Bath.
"It hasn't been easy this season not being able to contribute on the field, but I genuinely believe there is an exciting journey ahead of us and I'm committed to being a part of that."