Four of the most recognisable franchises in South African rugby are set to shake things up in the Guinness PRO14 in 2021 and pave the way for a competition like no other.\n\nThe Sharks, Stormers, Bulls and Lions are all household names for their explosive brand of rugby and they will be tested like never before when they enter the Championship fray.\n\nAnd in our latest look at what we can expect from the new arrivals, it is time to shine a light on the one of the most successful teams in Super Rugby history - the Bulls.\n\n# **When were they founded?**\n\nKnown as the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls today, the franchise started life when the Northern Transvaal Rugby union opted to breakaway from the Transvaal Rugby Union.\n\nThis decision in 1938 was made by the NTRU with the sole purpose of establishing themselves as a competitive rugby union in South Africa, taking the Barberton Daisy as their emblem.\n\nThe light blue colour would go on to become synonymous with the NTRU’s success over the years, starting with their first ever Currie Cup triumph eight years later in 1946.\n\nAt the beginning of the 1998 season, it was then decided to change the proud union’s name to the Blue Bulls in domestic competitions and the Bulls in the Super Rugby.\n\nBased at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, it is a brand that has since achieved global fame thanks to the franchise’s knack for winning silverware.\n\n# **How many trophies have they won?**\n\nSince that memorable first Currie Cup success against Western Province as Northern Transvaal, the Vodacom Blue Bulls have gone on to win the competition on a remarkable 23 occasions.\n\nTheir next appearance in the final arrived in the 1954 season against the same opposition but this time Western Province emerged victorious, holding on to win 11-8 at Newlands.\n\nBut they did not have to wait long to reclaim the trophy, winning the title with a 9-8 victory over the Sharks in 1956, before enjoying a golden era under the coaching of Burman van Zyl.\n\nBack-to-back Currie Cups arrived in 1968 and 1969 before Northern Transvaal were also crowned champions in 1971 (shared with Transvaal), 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980.\n\nMany of Northern Transvaal’s players of that time went on to establish themselves as Springboks, with the likes of Willem Stapelberg, Alan Menter and Piet Uys earning international honours.\n\nThey retained the Currie Cup again in 1981 before Western Province enjoyed a spell of domination, meaning it wasn’t until 1987 that the trophy returned to Pretoria. \nUnder the coaching of John Williams and captaincy of Naas Botha, who scored all 24 points, Northern Transvaal defeated Transvaal to restore their Currie Cup crown after six years.\n\nThey repeated the feat again in 1988 with an against-the-odds triumph over Western Province while the two heavyweight franchises shared the title the following year.\n\nVictory in 1991 proved to be their last for another seven years - as well as their final triumph under the Northern Transvaal name - with the Blue Bulls clinching the prize in 1998.\n\nSpringbok legend Joost van der Westhuizen played a key role in the success, which only came after the Bulls pulled off the comeback of the century in the semi-final against the Sharks.\n\nA hat-trick of Currie Cups were added to the total from 2002 to 2004 while further wins in 2006 (shared with Cheetahs) and 2009 have only enhanced the Blue Bulls’ legacy.\n\nMeanwhile, the Vodacom Bulls have been the most successful South African franchise in Super Rugby, winning the title on three occasions (2007, 2009, 2010) since its inception in 1996.\n\n# **Where did they finish in the table last year?**\n\nThe current Bulls side is certainly not short of star names, with the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Nizaam Carr, Marco van Staden, Arno Botha and Morne Steyn in their ranks.\n\nBut the Bulls did not enjoy the best of Currie Cup campaigns in 2019, finishing sixth in the Premier Division with two wins from their six games as they failed to make the finals.\n\nThe form of the Bulls in Super Rugby was better last season, with the franchise winning eight and drawing two of their 16 contests to finish second in the South African Conference.\n\nIn terms of the overall standings, the Bulls’ performances put them fifth in the overall standings and set up a quarter-final with Hurricanes - which ended in a 35-28 defeat in Wellington.\n\nThis season’s Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions - like the rest of the rugby calendar - were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic as no action took place between mid-March and September.\n\nA new Super Rugby Unlocked tournament was created as a result, beginning with a seven-week round-robin after which all points would be carried forward to the Currie Cup Premier Division.\n\nThe Bulls topped the standings of the seven-week round-robin tournament, winning five of their six games, and look strongly placed to qualify for the Currie Cup knockout stages.