Bulls have a sound base
Bulls have a sound baseSHARE
With their season opener against the Stormers looming on the horizon, the Bulls feel they have laid a solid foundation for a successful season.
The three-time champions, who start their 2013 campaign with a traditional north-south derby when the Stormers visit Loftus Versfeld on Friday, have moved on from last year's transitional season.
And it showed in the pre-season, as the Bulls comfortably won both their warm-up matches – beating a gutsy Lions team 38-32, before an even more impressive 32-10 demolition of the Cheetahs.
Coach Frans Ludeke, speaking to this website ahead of the encounter with the South African conference champions, the Stormers, said he is happy with where his team is at.
"It's your processes and systems that pull you through," he told this website in an interview from the team's base in Pretoria.
"That is what is great about the pre-season, there are a lot of good that came out of these warm-up games and we'll start with that as our base.
"What you don't have in your camp now, if you did not work hard enough or focussed on the right areas, then it will show in the games."
The Bulls, who lost both their encounters with the Stormers last year (17-20 in Cape Town and 14-19 in Pretoria), are confident that they can turn around there recent run of defeats to their arch rivals if they back their systems.
"Yes, we all want to start [the season] on a great note," Ludeke said, adding: "That is why our pre-season build-up and processes were so important."
Both teams, the Bulls and Stormers, dipped into the Lions' resources after the Johannesburg-based franchise was axed from Super Rugby by the South African Rugby Union.
Hooker Martin Bezuidenhout, Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies and Bok utility back Jaco Taute are all on loan from the Lions – while lock Ruan Botha, Bok prop Patric Cilliers and utility forward Michael Rhodes have made the move to Cape Town permanent.
The Bulls also have a healthy serving of Lions on their roster – Bok utility back Lionel Mapoe and hooker Callie Visagie on loan, with utility forward Grant Hattingh and lock Paul Willemse permanent residents in Pretoria.
While Hattingh signed midway through last year and have already had a few good outings with the men in light blue, the other three only joined them in pre-season and according to Ludeke they all fitted in well.
"Lionel Mapoe, Paul Willemse and Callie Visagie all three settled in seamlessly," the coach said.
"They are at home with the structures and they are making great contributions – we are very happy with them."
The big spin-off for the Bulls is the additional depth.
"It makes a massive difference," Ludeke said, adding: "As we all know, having good depth in your squad is vital in this competition.
"It is an aspect we worked on for this year."
By Jan de Koning