'Good vibe' in Bulls camp
Two pre-season wins will always create a good vibe, but the Bulls have ample reason to be positive ahead of the Super Rugby season.
Two pre-season wins will always create a good vibe, but the Bulls have ample reason to be positive just over a week out from their first Super Rugby match.
The Bulls comfortably won both their pre-season matches - beating a gutsy Lions team 38-32, before an even more impressive 32-10 demolition of the Cheetahs.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke did his best to play down the results, but admitted the team was in a good space ahead of their season opener - a traditional north-south derby, when the Stormers visit Loftus Versfeld next Friday, February 22.
"It [the two wins] was great reward for the [effort in] the off-season and the areas we worked on," Ludeke told this website in an interview, when asked if he was happy with where the team was at and what they achieved in the pre-season.
"You could see our conditioning in those warm-up games," the Bulls mentor said, adding: "It brings a great, positive vibe to the whole camp and the guys got a lot of confidence from that.
"The guys saw the things [tactics we put in place] worked and we are on the right track with certain aspects of our game."
While he was cautious not to read too much into the results, especially the margin of the win over the Cheetahs, Ludeke felt there are plenty other positives to take from the performances in which they field two very different teams.
"In both games we had great rhythm, players combined well and we got some great combinations together.
"However, you mustn't read too much into it, they were only warm-up games.
"You know that other teams were holding back.
"From our perspective, we felt good about what we did - there were certain aspects of our game we worked very hard on.
"Our scrum, in the second game against the Cheetahs, was very good. It was important, as they have a great set of forwards and it was a good test for us.
"The quality of the line-outs in both games was great and it was good to see that it was working and we were getting quality possession from the set pieces.
"Also, the decision-makers were good when making the calls - they varied the game well and tactically we played in the right areas."
Ludeke was also happy with the quality of his team's attack, an area they don't often get much credit for - even though they are regularly among the top try-scoring teams in Super Rugby.
"At times, when the defensive lines were not in place, they [the players] were positive and we put some great phases together from broken play."
And with the injury situation improving all the time, the Bulls will field an almost full-strength team against the Stormers.
"[Prop] Dean Greyling is in his final phase of rehabilitation," he said of the seasoned prop - who this week came out of his moon boot after a stress fracture in his foot.
"He [Greyling] started running this week," Ludeke said, adding that the prop has a chance of featuring in the matchday squad against the Stormers next week.
Another prop, Dawie Steyn, is also back from his leg fracture and in the training squad, but Cheetahs import Marcel van der Merwe is still some way off after his knee surgery and schedule to miss the opening weeks of the competition.
The Bulls completed their training for the week on Wednesday and will take a short break - Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday - before getting back together next week to prepare for the Stormers match.
"The guys are off to recharge, get some balance," Ludeke said, adding: ""Monday we are back. It is a short week next week, as we play [the Stormers] on Friday."
By Jan de Koning