Matfield selling his dream
The Bulls are determined to avoid another mass exodus from the kraal, as they look to bring through the herd of youngsters signed in the last few years.
Following a bitterly disappointing season, with a ninth-placed finish, the three-time champions are looking to arrest the slide.
Having won the title in 2007, 2009 and 2010, the Bulls have had some major slumps in the interim years - 10th in 2008 (which coincidentally coincided with the departure of several senior players), seventh in 2011 and ninth this year, following the departure of more than 20 senior players in the past two years.
Having been subjected to back-to-back player drains over the past two seasons, the Bulls are of the opinion that the worst is behind them now.
Coach Frans Ludeke, speaking in the wake of a season-ending (40-7) drubbing of the bottom-placed Rebels last Friday, indicated that they have plans in place to avoid further player departures.
World Cup-winning Springbok Victor Matfield, speaking in his capacity as a team leader and coach, said they are working hard to ensure the greater objectives at Loftus Versfeld are understood by the next generation.
"The first thing for me is selling the dream of what we are trying to do here at the Bulls and that is why we sign guys like Jan Serfontein and Handre Pollard for the next two-three years," Matfield said.
"And then the biggest thing for the most talented players is that they want to play for the Springboks, so we must show them that their best chance of realising that dream is if they play for the Bulls.
"It is all about creating that environment where they want to be and where they can eventually play for the Springboks."
Reflecting on the season, Ludeke highlighted that, on average, they fielded nine players who were competing at Super Rugby level for the first time.
The coach also pointed out that they lost several key players to injury and that their inefficiencies at the breakdown were further exposed when specialist fetchers Deon Stegmann and Dewald Potgieter were rule out of action.
While impressive at home, the Bulls failed to replicate that form on the road and will be disappointed with themselves for suffering record losses to teams they used to walk over in years gone by.
Their losses to the Cheetahs and Lions stung the most as those sides have never been able to taste success against them.
Ludeke noted that, from a managerial perspective, it would take new initiatives to ensure players do not jump ship at the first sign of a bigger pay cheque.
"We will also look at doing dual deals where the players can return after six months – with the Japan deals that is a possibility – but at the end of the day it is going to be tough to have a big squad with experienced players and it will make it tough to keep players," Ludeke said.
"Hopefully the economy will also change because the lure of the huge money they get overseas is hard to counter. We do have plans to make sure that we can secure some players."
Source: SANZAR media unit