Bulls showing great growth
Bulls showing great growthSHARE
The Bulls may be coming off a disappointing Australasian tour, but coach Frans Ludeke is adamant the team is showing tremendous growth.
Speaking to this website ahead of the all-South African derby against the Cheetahs in Pretoria on Saturday, Ludeke said they are not too concerned about the last three defeats.
Following home wins against the Stormers and Western Force, the Bulls got their tour off to a brilliant start – a first-ever win over the Blues in Auckland.
Then they came down to earth with a bang, a big loss to the Crusaders, before heartbreaking losses to the Reds (18-23) and Brumbies (20-23) – both games in which the last play of the match decided the outcome.
"The tour, every week was a great challenge for us, but the team showed tremendous growth," Ludeke told this website.
"It is difficult for those not closer to the team to see, but those of us who are on the inside took a lot out of that tour.
"We may only have taken six points from the trip, but there are many other things that molded us together in a tighter unit."
The Bulls mentor said there are now many players who are beginning to establish themselves in the team.
Not even that injury-time loss to the Brumbies, the result of a very questionable refereeing decision, could dampen the Bulls' spirits.
"We are looking at the bigger picture," Ludeke said, adding: "There are plenty of games  remaining.
"We came very close and we are very positive.
"If you look at the Brumbies game, that 15 minutes just after the break we were very effective and put points on the board.
"We closed the gap very easily and got ourselves back in the game. Even late in the game, it takes character to come back like that away from home.
"That is a platform for us to build on."
He felt that winning against the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld will put the Bulls firmly back in the play-off race.
"It is important to be successful and get results [victories], that is why it is a vital game for us this weekend against the Cheetahs at home."
The Bulls mentor also felt that his team does have the ability to match the free-running backs of the Cheetahs, even though the Bulls are seen mainly as a team with a conservative approach.
"If we get the ball on the front foot, our backs showed what they can do," Ludeke said.
"It is still important for the forwards to do the hard work to get front foot ball for the backs – that is when they are dangerous.
"Look at the [two] tries we scored against the Brumbies – one from broken play and one off a scrum.
"We back ourselves to attack from set pieces.
"We do have players who have showed they can make good calls in pressure situations and rounded off great opportunities."
By Jan de Koning