I can assure you the Bulls' players were all keen to get back into it
Desire and passion! These were the key words at the Bulls' training sessions this week, ahead of the resumption of the Super Rugby season.
The Pretoria-based franchise will host the Cheetahs in the first of three domestic derbies that will conclude their league fixtures.
After their arm-wrestle with the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld this week, the Bulls will travel to Durban next week for an encounter with the Sharks and then host the Lions in their final match before the play-offs.
Despite being in the top five on the global standings (second in the South African Confidence) they simply have to win all their remaining matches to guarantee themselves a place in the tournament's knock-out stages.
However, there are fears that the 18 players who were involved in the Springbok squad during the just completed three-Test series against England may lack motivation and desire.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is adamant that his charges are as hungry as ever and they were all keen to get stuck into Super Rugby again.
"I had good discussions with Heyneke [Meyer] and was always kept in the loop with what was happening at the Boks," Ludeke told this website in an interview ahead of the encounter with the Cheetahs.
"The important aspect is always in what shape the players are when they get back [from the Boks].
"I can assure you the Bulls' players were all keen to get back into it [Super Rugby] and their attitude was great.
"There was a great urgency at training and we had some great sessions - it did not appear there was any fatigue."
The Bulls mentor spoke of the importance of getting back on the winning track after his team lost their last three outing (against the Highlanders, Chiefs an Stormers) before the June Test window.
"We all know this is a crucial stage [of the season], with all the teams from [the Reds in] ninth [position on the standings] upwards ... it is a very close race," he said of the dash for play-off places.
"So it is vital we get the win."
He said the team's Boks - there are 14 Test players in the Bulls' starting XV - know they will be measure by the standards they now produce at Super Rugby level.
"These players never get enough of winning and success, you can see they always have that desire," Ludeke told this website, adding: "They also know how important this period is, not just for us [the Bulls] as a team, but there are other rewards that can come from success in Super Rugby.
"There is a huge desire among the players [to be successful] ... there is an urgency in the [Bulls] squad.
"It will show this coming weekend between the four lines [on the playing field]. It doesn't matter what say now, that question will only be answered when they come out at the weekend and display that urgency and passion on the field."
The Bulls - who are supposedly in a period of transition after losing a host of World Cup winners like Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp and Fourie du Preez - made it clear that reaching the platy-offs was a minimum requirement when they set their pre-season goals.
"That is a goal we set ourselves at the start of the season, to ensure we have a a shot at success at the end of the season ... by getting into the play-offs," Ludeke said, adding that they are up against a very good team in the Cheetahs.
"We realised it will be - as always - a huge, physical battle against the Cheetahs.
"They will most probably play with a lot of freedom, as there is no pressure on them - being out of the play-off running.
"We expect them to keep the ball in hand and in motion."
The Bulls know they will have to play in the right areas of the field and be accurate with the possession they have.
"The Cheetahs like to carry the ball, so we will have to retain possession very well," Ludeke said, adding: "Up front it is always a huge physical battle."
By Jan de Koning