Outplayed, outwitted and outmuscled, the men from Pretoria are starting down the barrel of a very big gun as they aim to live up to their status as defending champions of the Super 14 trophy.
Rocked by the departure of the core of their team, their talismanic coach and injuries to their game-breakers, the Vodacom Bulls look a poor shadow of the team that marched so emphatically to glory in last year’s competition. Let’s have a look at the lessons that the Bulls have (hopefully) learned and will try to rectify, in an attempt to improve on what is already looking like an annus horriblis in this most demanding of competitions.
1 ) When replacing your coach, aim for the best. Heyneke Meyer put some great systems in place and had a solid team of men working alongside him. In the interests of continuity, one of these men should have been handed the reigns. If a new start was desired, then they should have brought in a coach who had proven himself at this level. Frans Ludeke won only 3 games out of 24 as Cats coach. He was NOT the right man to appoint, even if he does speak impeccable Afrikaans!
2 ) The new laws require a new approach. Playing the same boring game, getting beaten, then whining in the press about how unfair the law changes are is not going to get you any higher up the log. It also doesn’t win you any friends. Adapt or die, chaps… Darwin was right!
3 ) Cut out the thuggery. JP Nel isn’t a rugby player – he’s a street fighter. He has been living on the wrong side of the law for years and getting away with it. On Saturday, his indiscretions caught up with him and it cost you the game. News flash: he’s also not a very good centre. You can’t carry this guy anymore. Get rid of him. Introduce a zero-tolerance policy regarding on-field foul play. Make an example of Nel and Engels and cut out the rot. You will play better rugby if you concentrate on the game, rather than the fight.
4 ) Get rid of the players who don’t want to be there. The Bulls have enough of a mountain to climb without having to carry reluctant prima donnas like Bakkie Botha (and now possibly Danie Rossouw) with them. Rule of thumb – if the guy isn’t prepared to die for the jersey, let him go. The Bulls could do very well out in the market with what they’re currently paying Botha. Lots of retreaded no 7 flankers looking for a berth at number 4…
5 ) Get a proper hooker in. Kuün has a big mouth, but he is not a hooker. Go and BUY Hanyani Shimange, for God’s sake, or Ethiene Reyneke, or anyone else to fill the void until you can get Chilli back on the field. Where’s your succession, planning, by the way? We have heard for years that the Bulls have such great depth and they win every trophy at junior level. Why are those guys not making the step up?
6 ) Fix your loose trio. Pace is the new black, remember? Pedrie Wannenburg, Hilton Lobberts and Danie Rossouw are locks. Wikus is ok, but get in some pacy flankers, with vision and skill. Maybe our friend Derick K should get another look-in at number 6, with Wikus at 7 and Stegmann at 8? Might be the best you can do with the limited resources you have available, but again, I ask, where is the youth coming through?
7 ) The only playmaker you have in your backline is at scrumhalf. Neither Hougaard nor Steyn has what it takes to play flyhalf now… but Fourie du Preez does. Trust him as your backline general. Adams is a better scrumhalf under the new laws anyway, so get him to feed du Preez and watch the magic start. Give someone else the captaincy – it is ruining Fourie’s game!
8 ) Wynand Olivier is useless. Drop him hard and don’t catch him when he bounces. He never passes, has terrible hands and even worse vision. Nobody falls for his dummies anymore – they know that the only person he would ever contemplate passing to is the touch judge! Get Morne Steyn in at 12 as a stopgap and then offer Andries Strauss even half of Wynand’s massive paycheck. Instant ROI guaranteed.
9 ) Play Habana at 13, with Mametsa and Ndungane on the wings, but work with these guys to get their handling sharp. Even Demas is somebody you can work with, but you need to do the work, not call him a “fokken kwota” and drop him after one bad game. Face it, guys, you haven’t done any work at all developing outside backs, because Habana is naturally gifted and your game plan negates the need for them. Get a proper backline coach in to work with what you’ve got.
10 ) Readjust your objectives for the season. You ain’t gonna retain this cup… you need to concentrate on rather not getting snotted every week. Cut out the dead wood, get the youngsters in and back them to deliver, even if they fail at first. Build a new Bulls culture, based on players that want to wear the blue jersey with pride (and not get it covered in the blood of their opponents). Embrace the new laws and pick the right players to exploit them, while at he same time having a good look at your procurement and succession planning.
Good luck, Bulle! You’re going to need it.Tweet