Battle of Bloem will be like a Test
Battle of Bloem will be like a TestSHARE
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has no doubt Saturday's decisive Super Rugby encounter with the Cheetahs will have the intensity and produce the tactics of a Test match.
Ludeke, speaking to this website ahead of the Bulls' trip to Bloemfontein for what is effectively a South African Conference decider, said nothing less than a committed 80-minute effort will be good enough.
"The Cheetahs are a team in good form, while we are determined to build on our recent run [of six victories]," Ludeke said.
"No doubt it will be [like] Test rugby on Saturday."
Ludeke said both teams make good use of tactical kicking.
"While the stats show the Cheetahs have kicked the most this year, we also use 'tactical strategies' to get into the right areas and then put the opposition under pressure with defence," the Bulls mentor told this website.
"They [the Cheetahs] do the same.
"It will place enormous pressure on the set pieces, which means we have to be accurate."
Asked about the quality of his team's set pieces, especially the scrums where they have been under pressure this season, Ludeke confirmed that the team has spent some additional time this week looking to eradicate any problems.
"We definitely were not happy with last week's [scrum] performance, [against the Sharks], we were not accurate enough," the coach said.
"With that early hit [in the first scrum] we put ourselves under pressure – after that we were on the back foot the whole game.
"It is like missing your first serve in tennis, the next one must be in [or you lose the points].
"That really put us under pressure.
"Technically there were a couple of things we worked on, to ensure we are more accurate [in the scrums].
"We know what we are capable of in the scrums, so we want to be more accurate [against the Cheetahs] this weekend."
He admitted it won't get any easier, as the Cheetahs are just as powerful as the Sharks scrum and probably more dynamic.
"They [the Cheetahs] have been competitive the whole season," Ludeke said, adding: "One of the reasons they have been so successful is that they have good set-piece play. They have been accurate in their line-outs and teams have struggled to put them under pressure – they get quality ball, get out of their half and set up great attacking opportunities."
Ludeke knows his team can do themselves a huge favour by beating the Cheetahs, especially ahead of the three-week June break.
A win could put the Bulls as much as 10 points clear of the second-placed Cheetahs in the SA conference race – depending on the bonus points gained or not by both teams in the match.
Defeat could have the opposite result, even allowing the Cheetahs to take first place in the conference – again depending on bonus points.
"We will have a number of players involved in the June Tests and you never know in what shape they will come back," Ludeke said, adding: "We need to put ourselves in the best possible position before the break and a win in Bloemfontein will do that."
By Jan de Koning