Can the Tahs run with the Bulls?
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika's free-running philosophy may not have brought the desired results just yet, but it could bear fruit very soon.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika's much-publicised free-running philosophy may not have brought the desired results just yet, but it could bear fruit very soon.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has taken note of the new approach and tactics employed by the Sydney-based franchise, who will visit Loftus Versfeld on Saturday for a Round 11 encounter.
It is ironic that the Bulls - with their supposedly dour, kicking game - have scored two four-try bonus points this season, having touched down 17 times in eight games.
The Waratahs, with their expansive game, have not scored any four-try bonus points - also with 17 tries in eight games.
On defence the Bulls have also outperformed the Waratahs, having conceded 16 tries and the Waratahs 22.
However, the Bulls are wary of the threat posed by the visitors on Saturday.
"They are different from previous years," Ludeke told this website, when asked about the Tahs' expansive game.
"They are the team that has kicked the least and carried the ball the most," the Bulls mentor added.
"You can see a different philosophy in that team.
"However, that might change for this week and we will see that in the first 10 minutes."
Ludeke felt that there are also certain aspects that make the Bulls a good side.
"If we are accurate in our execution, we can get energy and get our momentum," the Bulls mentor said, adding: "That is what is important for us, our own game, and what we are focussing on."
Asked if they have specific plans to counter the Tahs' tactics, Ludeke said they will not stray from what has worked well for them this season.
"It is just hard work on defence and keeping up your workrate," he told this website.
"The players must look after each other, cover the players on the inside and outside.
"It also comes down to our structure. We have a specific strategy [on defence].
"Then it also comes down to the quality of possession [we allow them to] get, that is important."
Having moved to the top of the South African conference, the Bulls now obviously have a target on their backs.
But the men from Pretoria are not going to change tact and will continue to trust the "processes and systems" that got them there.
"There are aspects of our game we want to improve significantly," Ludeke said, adding: "We had to work hard to turn it [around] and make it a positive [aspect after a disappointing tour].
"We know there's still a long way to go in this season [eight more games] and we have a very important game against the Waratahs awaiting on Saturday.
"That is what makes this competition so great, you have to be on top of your game in every aspect.
"We also need to ensure we remain fresh to have the mental capacity to give our best every weekend."
He added that strategically and tactically it changes slightly every week.
"If you look at all the Australasian teams, their structure and strategy, they bring very different challenges.
"It makes this weekend a very different game."
He also spoke of the Waratahs' traditional strengths, their powerful forwards, especially the front row where they are all Wallabies - Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson.
"We are well aware that only our best effort will be good enough this weekend. We will need to be very accurate in our execution and make sure when we get opportunities we put points on the board."
By Jan de Koning