Their mental strength and experience of past finals will be two key weapons in the Blue Bulls’ arsenal as they launch an assault on the Sharks in the Currie Cup Final in Durban on Saturday.
Rugby 365′s Jan De Koning writes that Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, who was on the losing end in his only previous appearance in a Final in South Africa’s premier domestic competition, has no doubt that his team is well placed to become the new owners of the coveted golden trophy.
With last year’s winners, the Free State Cheetahs, knocked out in the semifinal by the Bulls, new champions will be crowned at Absa Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
And the Bulls, who shared the Currie Cup trophy with the Cheetahs in 2006, will be looking to the experience they gained during their three-year reign from 2002 to 2004, as well as their Super 14 victory last year, to pull them through on Saturday.
“It [mental strength] is always important in a Final,” Ludeke told rugby365.com, as his team stepped up their preparations.
“It is vital to be able to handle the pressure. If you have not been in a Final before, you don’t know what to expect, but the players who have been there know how to cope.
“You need players who can make the right decisions under pressure and stay calm. If the opportunity presents itself, you have to be able to take it … it is a once-off game.”
Ludeke is confident that his team has enough experience – with a host of players who have not only won the Currie Cup, but have also played in a Super 14 Final, a World Cup Final and won.
“We also have that experience among the leaders in the team and the core of this team is an experienced unit,” Ludeke said.
The other key aspect is dept, the ability to plug the gaps when injuries occur.
Danie Rossouw, a veteran of 34 Tests including a World Cup winner’s medal and a member of the victorious Super 14 team of 2007, comes in for the injured Bakkies Botha in the second row.
It is being able to call on that kind of experience that Ludeke feels could make a difference on Saturday.
“Experience is always important,” he told this website, adding: “Just look at a team like the Crusaders and the depth they have.
“It is important that the replacement is just as good as the player he replaced. Heyneke [Meyer, the former Bulls coach who is now at Leicester Tigers in England] always worked towards getting the No.1 and No.2 in each position to be at the same level.
“We have the luxury of being able to bring a player like Danie Rossouw in to replace Bakkies Botha. Danie [Rossouw] is a world class player in his own right. He can just step in and we are not losing anything,” Ludeke added.
The Bulls coach also said that the mental preparation this week would supersede the physical aspects of training.
The Bulls will work on smoothing over certain aspects of their defence and attack in the remaining training sessions, but mostly they will work on getting mentally tuned for the game.
“Obviously the whole week it [the Final] will be in the back of our minds and what awaits us on Saturday,” the Bulls coach said.
“But you try not to play the game during the week, you try to preserve your energy and to keep it for the game.”
He also admitted that is vital to keep a lid on the excitement that builds up, as the hype surrounding the game picks up throughout the week.
But he feels, with the right approach, the players will be in the correct frame of mind on match day.
“The important thing is to focus on the right stuff. Obviously there will be excitement, you can’t get past that.
“However, it is important to keep saying the right things and focus on the right stuff – that way you keep your eye on the ball.
“There will obviously be lots of excitement in both camps and we are looking forward to the game,” he added.
Ludeke, who was coach of the Lions team that lost to the Bulls in the 2002 Final, said his personal goals are “secondary” to the team, despite the obvious desire to get his first Currie Cup winner’s medal.
“We [the Bulls] have a communal goal, to win on Saturday. But there is no doubt that it will take a huge team effort and there is no place for individual goals,” he said.Tweet