Let’s explore the reasons behind the fall from grace of the Bulls – last year’s Super 14 champions, this year’s Super 14 chumps.
Gary Boshoff writes in his News 24 column that statisticians will show that despite one of the worst performances from a Bulls team in recent memory, the Bulls’ present log position is in fact far from their worst ever.
In the early days of Heyneke Meyer’s tenure as Bulls coach, the Bulls were the laughing stock of the Super 14 (then known as the Super 12) for a number of seasons. Nevertheless, it is certainly to Heyneke Meyer and also former Blue Bulls Rugby Union president Piet Olivier and Dolf van Huyssteen’s credit that the Bulls’ ended up being world beaters since then.
It was under the stewardship of Barend van Graan and Olivier that the Eugene van Wyk era was brought to an end and a crop of new young players were brought into the Blue Bulls’ fold.
Meyer was appointed to a restructured Blue Bulls Company coaching team to lead the union into a new era. Over the next three to four years Meyer introduced a culture of professionalism among his squad and concomitant to that a special type of what I would call “group dynamic” that saw each and every member of the Blue Bulls, be it player, coach or administrator, work towards one goal: the re-establishment of the Blue Bulls as the number one team in South Africa.
In subsequent years he received the necessary support from Van Huyssteen who took over from Olivier as president. In 2007 the Blue Bulls exceeded their set objective by becoming the number one team in the Super 14. From near relegation (from the Currie Cup) in 2000 to Super 14 champions in 2007 – a remarkable achievement indeed!
However, success in sport is short-lived as you’re only as good as your last match. Looking at the current Super 14 log I could hardly recall the exhilaration, the almost hysterical celebration at Kings Park when Bryan Habana scored that match-winning try. That was barely 11 months ago. What has gone wrong? How is it possible for something so good to become so bad?
The hapless display against the Hurricanes made a mockery of the so-called turn-around of the Bulls’ season that supposedly started against the Blues.
Not so obvious
This past week, in the run-up to the Hurricanes game, Frans Ludeke was confident about his teams chances to resurrect the pride of the Bulls at fortress Loftus. However, what remains after their demolition by the Hurricanes is a disjointed team who has lost all confidence in their ability to win, but more importantly, a team without a coach to inspire them, to lift them out of their depressive mental state. The Bulls are on their knees waiting for the final count. If they succumb to the equally poor Highlanders next week, they will be down and out and well on their way to finishing the season at the bottom of the log.
So what will the leadership do to rectify the situation? To tell the truth, what for outsiders seems the obvious thing to do, is not so obvious when you’re inside, especially at the Bulls.
The fact of the matter is that 12 of the 15 players that were in the starting line-up of the Super 14 final last year, played against the Hurricanes this past weekend.
Fourie du Preez, the captain, articulated his unhappiness with the total lack of commitment from his fellow players, the majority of whom are senior players and Springboks.
There is very little that Ludeke can do more than to tell guys like Pedrie Wannenburg, Danie Rossouw and Bakkies Botha to actually tackle an opponent that runs towards their tryline. On the other hand, if these senior Boks have scant respect for the coach and do not trust his ability and judgement, the problem becomes more complicated than missed tackles and a bad day at the office.
In fact, it requires a similar process, plan or solution, call it what you may, that was introduced in 2000 when Olivier and Van Graan got rid of the rotten apples and started to turn the union around.
One of the Bulls’ administrators remarked the other day that the success of teams works in cycles and perhaps the present cycle has reached full circle and a new one needs to start.
Trying times and difficult decisions lay ahead for the Bulls leadership in the days and weeks to come.Tweet