Bulls must produce 80-minute effort
Bulls must produce 80-minute effortSHARE
The Highlanders may be stuck at the foot of the table, with just one win from 10 starts, but they still pose a major threat to even the best teams.
Their only win this season has been over a badly out-of-sorts Sharks team and even the lowly Kings – who surrendered a record 72 points to the Waratahs the week before – managed to take a full-house five points off the Highlanders.
However, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is adamant his team will require an 80-minute effort from the top shelve or face the ignominy of becoming only the second team not to beat the men from Dunedin.
Speaking to this website ahead of their Round 14 encounter at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, Ludeke said the Bulls will have to work hard to impose their game on the Highlanders.
"They are at their most dangerous when they [are allowed to] get their strengths into the game," the Bulls mentor said.
"We have the utmost respect for them, they are a good team – despite their results," Ludeke added.
"Throughout the season they have been competitive and in the game right to the end, with just one or two minor calls going against them."
The Bulls mentor felt the Highlanders – a side littered with All Blacks in key positions – are capable of beating anyone on the day.
Players like All Blacks Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Brad Thorn, Hosea Gear, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Colin Slade and Tamati Ellison make them such a threat.
At some stage this season those players will get it together and it could be at Loftus on Saturday.
"It will be a huge battle, but we are looking forward to it," Ludeke said, adding: "It is also a very important game for us."
The coach felt his team will need an 80-minute effort of the highest order.
"It will be all about our workrate," he said, adding: "We need to get the basics right, but mainly the workrate and [the] tempo [at which we play].
"They are a team that likes to retain the ball for lengthy periods and counter from broken play.
"We will have to be very disciplined."
Ludeke said the Bulls, fresh from their second bye week, will again look to apply pressure through tactical kicking.
"We will have to be very accurate with that, to control the type of possession they get and close the space down so they can't counter."
Asked if he felt the break last week might stop their momentum – given that they managed a four-match winning streak between the two byes – Ludeke said it is a mindset.
"You do need the break, it is a very long season.
"Near the end of the season a bye is vital, to ensure you get some balance in your approach.
"We are determined to continue building on that with what we were successful in the last four weeks [before the bye].
"We are confident that the rest will stand us in good stead and that we will be full of energy this coming weekend."
By Jan de Koning