In one of the worst kept secrets of the year, the Vodacom Bulls finally announced the return of loose forward Jannes Kirsten to Loftus Versfeld from the end of the season.
Kirsten had already announced he would be leaving Exeter Chiefs at the end of the season and Friday’s confirmation just cements the move.
Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone confirmed Kirsten would be a massive asset for the Pretoria side.
“We know Jannes very well and understand the impact he can have. We appreciate that he has gone on to play in Europe, in different conditions against some of the best rugby stars in that part of the world, so the experience he returns with will be invaluable to us. He knows Pretoria very well and having him return means that he sees us as the place he can call home and so we are really glad to see him return to be united with his family,” Rathbone said.
“The introduction of South African teams in European competition has meant that now more than the years before, we are seeing a few more locally produced quality players looking to make a return because they still have the opportunity to compete against some of the best in the Northern Hemisphere while adding value to the game in their own backyard,”
“We appreciate that he is a versatile player, who can slot in at lock and flank and that will add to our dynamic options, strengthening our rugby offering. We look forward to welcoming him in July and are confident that he will continue being the world-class player that we have seen become, wearing our stripes” concluded Rathbone.
?? NEW SIGNING ALERT ??
Welcome BACK to the Vodacom Bulls Jannes Kirsten ?? A Loftus Son returns HOME ??#TrueToTheBlue pic.twitter.com/OVsj5eZUaY— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) January 27, 2023
Kirsten played 69 times for the Blue Bulls and Bulls sides in his first stint for the Pretoria side before moving to the Chiefs where he helped them to a historic Premiership and European double in 2020.
Kirsten played 75 times for the Chiefs, scoring six tries in the process, the last being against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.
Kirsten reflected on his time at Exeter.
“The past four years have been an unbelievable experience, not just in terms of my rugby, but my own personal life. Coming to Exeter was obviously a new challenge for me, but it’s one that has brought me so much.
“The club, the city, the people, they have all been amazing and I will leave at the end of the season with only happy memories. What I have been able to achieve is something I am very proud of and the friends I have made will be life-long.
“South Africa, however, is home for me and the time is right for me to go back there and continue the next chapter of my rugby career. Heading over to Pretoria just a few weeks’ ago with the Chiefs was very special, particularly as I never thought I would run out at Loftus as a visiting player.
“Also, getting the opportunity to show my homeland to my team-mates and the staff that travelled was something I will remember. The Chiefs will always hold a big place in my heart and between now and the end of the season I will be doing everything possible to ensure my time here finishes on a high note.”
Chiefs Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, was quick to highlight Kirsten’s influence on the club.
“From day one and then when he was signing new deals, Jannes said he needed to have the option of going home because he didn’t know when the family would want him to get back from his European adventure,” said Baxter.
“All I can say about Jannes is he has been a fantastic player for us; a fantastic bloke about the place and I will really miss him. He has been a real character and he came at a time when the club were achieving big things. He’s has played a big part in all of that and all I can do is thank him for that and hope he can have a successful end to his time at Exeter Chiefs.
“Although he initially came here on a short-term deal, it almost feels now like he’s been part and parcel of the furniture for a long, long time. He has been a great guy to coach, a great guy to manage, and I know he’s been very interactive with the other coaches, staff and supporters of the club.
“I can’t do any more than wish him the best for the future and with the Bulls and, who knows, we could end coming up against him again in the future.”