VIDEO: Bulls coach explains Bok's axing
REACTION: The absence of Springbok scrumhalf Rudy Paige has been the talking point of the Bulls' squad announcement and coach John Mitchell pulled no punches when he explained his decision.
Mitchell spoke of players needing to "meet standards" and show "character under pressure".
However, the most veracious statement is that the Bulls must "move forward" - suggesting that the 13-times capped Paige, 28, no longer fits the bill.
In his places comes Embrose Papier (20) - a former South African Schools and SA Under-20 scrumhalf.
"When it comes to selecting a Super Rugby side, it takes time," Mitchell told a media briefing at Loftus Versfeld.
"This [the 2018 squad] has taken a lot longer than I would like normally," Mitchell added.
"Next year we will be able to name the side earlier, but it was very important for me not to be hasty, and to be sure that I had enough information on players meeting standards.
"Certainly [I] look at their character under pressure as well and bearing mind when you name 38 players, there are a lot of players who are third or fourth-ranked in their positions. We are going to need them to be ready at some point in the competition. That positive person is also critical in that period.
"Getting back to Rudy, he has been fantastic for the franchise," the coach said.
"He has made it his life in recent years and has given it a lot.
"But I just thought it was time to move forward.
"I like a very fast No.9 and certainly all the young No.9s we have selected have that ability.
"Embrose Papier is an up-and-coming and potentially a world-class scrumhalf. He has demonstrated that in his age-group games and he is also an international Under-20 player - so I think it time for him to start at Super Rugby level."
Mitchell admitted it was difficult sitting Paige down and breaking the news of axing to him.
"He has taken it as good as anyone can, but that [making tough selection calls] is my job."
The Bulls play two pre-season games on Saturday - one team heading to Polokwane to face the Sharks, while the other squad face the Lions in Johannesburg.