Same symptoms points to same disease

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content, Other SA Teams on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:28
Tagged with : , , ,

It is interesting to note the difference in reaction to two South African Super Rugby franchises which seem to be having the exact same problem.

The Vodacom Bulls and MTN Lions are both teams who find themselves in dire-straights where in both instances, the players performances, mostly their commitment, are being questioned.

If we could forget for one second the situations surrounding each individual franchise and just look at what we see on the field, it would be quite logical to believe that the root of the problems for both teams originates from exactly the same source.

Both sets of players seem to be suffering from poor skills levels and technique, not learning from their mistakes or an inability to change their approach, and extreme low confidence which results in players developing a negative attitude, or lack of commitment.

Of course many will point out the situation within each franchise is indeed very different.  On the one hand, you have a team loaded with superstars and on the other, you have none.  The one team is the defending champions and the other perennial under-achievers in Super rugby.

This is true, but also, circumstantial.

If we strip down all the bullshit, it is clear both teams had expectations and realistic ones at that given their individual circumstances, and both teams failed to live up to those.

My question then is this; ‘If both teams failed to live up to their individual expectations through seemingly experiencing the exact same problem, why is the focus of attention the coach for the one team, and the players for the other?’

JJ Harmse, one of the biggest Bulls supporters and rugby scribes you could wish to meet, recently said that given the problems of the Bulls, the focus now has to shift to coach, Frans Ludeke.  In comparison, Lions coach John Mitchell has squarely put the blame of his team’s problems on his players.

Now if both teams are experiencing exactly the same problems, why are we looking at different areas to fix them?

I know the most logical argument here would be to tell me that the one team is loaded with superstars, but that is not the point.  Individual expectations for both teams and coaches might have been very different, but if they both failed for exactly the same reason, it does not mean the problem lies in two different areas.

I do not propose that I know exactly what the problem is; in fact I think it is more psychological than anything else, but in this specific instance I find it strange that we would identify two completely different areas as the root cause.

Which of the two are closest to the mark?  Well I tend to side with Harmse that the coach is the only person that can change the fortunes of each team, whether you are blessed with a bunch of superstars or not.

After all, I have seen superstars turn into useless players within one week in South African rugby and average players become world beaters.

Fact remains, any player’s form is relative to the environment he finds himself in, and the environment of both camps needs a massive overhaul.


  • Frans Ludeke i think deserves som blame ,why he continues to play dewald as a blind side is strange .Play him at 6 and rossouw at 7…
    Spies biggest problem is he is a marked man .If they had a big 7 then defence would be spread. Mitchel i dont think can be blamed ,the problem was there before he got their (and with a few different coaches it has not gone away) and has stayed there, the blame can only fall on the lions players heads.

  • Comment 1, posted at 26.04.11 11:42:39 by Talent Reply
  • Some people will claim I am arrogant for this comment but I was surprised when the Bulls appointed Ludeke as coach. Admittedly since then he has won 2 Super titles (and 1 Currie Cup) with the Bulls, but wasn’t he the guy who dropped the Lions into the bat guano they’re in at the moment?

    The Lions have never been a team loaded with superstars (not in recent history although they used to be packed in the old Super 10 days) but they were decent in the guise of the Cats under Laurie Mains. Ludeke followed after Mains and they dropped.

    Could it be that the Bulls might be headed into Lions territory now?

    The thing which has made me wonder is that maybe the Bulls have been like the Boks in that the senior players have really been controlling the team. They’re now out of form and dropping and Ludeke doesn’t have the necessary skills to pull them out. Heyneke Meyer is still there as Director of Rugby but isn’t as close to the team as he used to be.

  • Comment 2, posted at 26.04.11 11:56:20 by Butchie34 Reply
  • With the Bulls i cant comment as I have not seen any of their games so far. As for the Lions, their finishing is atrocious not to mention their ball skills at critical moments. Some of the decisions taken on the field by players can only be described as brain farts. 😯

  • Comment 3, posted at 26.04.11 11:57:35 by Caratacus Reply

  • @Talent (Comment 1) : You sound exactly like a bulls supporter now. “Spies biggest problem is he is a marked man”. Bull man! So tell me then Willem Alberts isn’t a marked man.

  • Comment 4, posted at 26.04.11 12:04:02 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Anyway I think the problems are exact the opposite. With the bulls I think the problems lie with the players who have all the experience in the world and should really be able to control the game when they are om the field and should calm all the other players down. At the Lions I think the problem lies with the coach as they have so little experience in that team. I think they have 2 boks in their team. Huge difference when compared to the Bulls. We aren’t comparing apples with apples here imo.

  • Comment 5, posted at 26.04.11 12:16:28 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Ludeke keeps on playing the out of form players week after week. Drop Spies and play Danie at 8. The problem with their backline though is that there is no one to replace the out of form players. depth is going to be their downfall. Wonder what heineke is keeping himself busy with?

  • Comment 6, posted at 26.04.11 12:21:56 by Viking Reply
  • @Ben (Comment 5) :

    I made specific reference to that for the very reason you mentioned.

    The expectations of the Bulls being defending champions, and those of the Lions, would be completely different. No-one on this planet would have believed the Lions to be title contenders, realistically however, you would have expected the Bulls to be.

    Each team had pre-season goals, for the Lions that might have been to end in the top 10, or win all their home games, and that would have been realistic.

    Each team however failed, and from where I sit, they failed for the exact same reason and that is players underperforming to the levels expected of them in their respective scenarios.

    It is as close as comparing apples with apples as you can get, albeit comparing a green apple to a red one perhaps.

  • Comment 7, posted at 26.04.11 12:33:44 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 7) : For the experience reason I’d blame the Bulls players. The coach can only bring you so far and then up to you to go and do it on the field. The Bulls players are bored and feel there is nothing left for them to achieve, they feel they are a gimme to get selected for the boks so why should they play their hearts out and risk getting injured?

  • Comment 8, posted at 26.04.11 12:41:47 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben (Comment 8) :

    I would refer you to my last line in the article.

    Any player’s form is directly related to the environment he finds himself in, what environment is created for those players is up to one man (and his team) alone…

  • Comment 9, posted at 26.04.11 12:49:03 by Morné Reply
  • In my opinion, the Lions have 2 MAJOR problems:

    1. Defence…they still leak far too many tries and miss way too many first time tackles. You can’t expect to win games when you concede so many tries.
    2. They try to play TOO MUCH rugby and from the wrong areas – they try and run the ball from their own line creating unnecessary pressure. Why not boot the ball when in their 22 and play the rugby when they have some decent field position. They are so predictable that it’s easy for opponents to read them and shut them down.

    The Bulls it seems are stuck somewhere between 2 game plans. They haven’t quite adapted their game to the new laws and when under pressure seem to revert to their antiquated template. They seem to want to play a different game but their old game plan is still imprinted in the players DNA. Does Kirchner do anything else other than a Gary Owen when he receives the ball? Their attacking game is also extremely limited.

    So in both instances, the coach has to shoulder the blame. Ludeke has not embraced change sufficiently and Mitchell has not learned from earlier mistakes. I’m very surprised with Mitchell because I thought he was astute.

  • Comment 10, posted at 26.04.11 12:52:49 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
  • @Morné (Comment 9) : I have no doubt that the coach plays a HUGE role in the team. I just can’t see how a coach can become a bad coach over night. That is why I think its down to a lack of commitment from the players.

  • Comment 11, posted at 26.04.11 12:54:38 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben (Comment 11) :

    After the AB’s, Mitch did not achieve any significant measure of success.

    As for Ludeke, even after two super rugby titles, some never rated him (thanks to his past and the Lions mainly).

  • Comment 12, posted at 26.04.11 13:00:42 by Morné Reply
  • @Ben (Comment 11) :

    In comparison, look at what Rod McQueen has done at the Rebels in their first season…

    By no means title contenders (obviously), but these boys are hugely competitive and are made up of a couple of journeymen, guys closing off their careers and some no-name brands (similar to the Lions in fact…)

  • Comment 13, posted at 26.04.11 13:02:06 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 13) : Like I said I blame the Lions coach for their problems as the players have very little experience to fall back on and only plays the game the way their coach directed them to. So I agree with you on that one.

  • Comment 14, posted at 26.04.11 13:06:06 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • The Difference is that at the Lions Mitchell runs the show and he is not afraid to tell the players that they need to pull their socks up.

    At the Bulls, Victoria runs the show and Ludeke is shit scared to rock the boat in public.

    So essentially you COULD rightfully point a finger at Ludeke for not being tough enough on his players and dropping them. Does he have the depth to drop them though?

    Think Proteas and the influence their Captain had on selection. Are we seeing the same thing at the Bulls.

  • Comment 15, posted at 26.04.11 13:52:01 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 15) : hehehe Give Fudge a chance?! 😈

  • Comment 16, posted at 26.04.11 16:46:55 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • For once this KSA Shark chap speaks sense. 🙄
    Wait, maybe the missus is blogging from his pc. Aah, that explains it then. 😈

  • Comment 17, posted at 26.04.11 17:10:00 by wpw Reply
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 16) : If it wakes some of the primma donna’s out of their slumber then it’ll be a good thing.

  • Comment 18, posted at 26.04.11 17:42:42 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @Morné (Comment 13) : He is no fool though, he had a plan and recruited as well as he could he has experience and Youth in the ranks . I still believe that is where the Lions stuffed up so badly when the Loffie disaster took place. That was a happy outfit, maybe not the fittest one but they had potential and could have become a good team if the idiots that Run Lions Rugby had taken a different approach instead of just firing Loffie!! What happened to him is he still with Boland

  • Comment 19, posted at 27.04.11 11:26:40 by Whindy Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition Winner
  • If you want to solve the mystery at the Bulls then you need look no further than Ludeke’s record at the Lions.

    Anybody remember his nickname being Frans Ludicrous?
    The man doesnt have the balls to drop under-performing players and has not adjusted last years gameplan one iota. The kick and chase is last years design and doesnt work anymore.

    Furthermore old stalwarts at the Bulls arent performing. Du Preez looks jaded and his decision-making is atrocious.
    Steyn isnt slotting his kicks, Spies is being knocked back by scrumhalves and Olivier still cant pass, but now cant catch either.

    The idea that Spies is a marked man is laughable. He was never any good and always hits contact too high.

    The Lions are a team in transition. New side, new coach, new owners. They started with nothing and, while they’ll end with little more, they have shown some promise and chaps like Strauss will inevitably have a bigger say in the years to come.
    To the Lions credit at least they’re looking somewhat pretty with what they want to do.

  • Comment 20, posted at 27.04.11 16:03:34 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • I really do not understand this love affair so many have with Mitchell. Please someone tell me why the Lions should have expected to do any better in this year’s Super Rugby than last year? They did not improve one bit in Currie Cup 2010 from 2009, yet everyone seems to think they are so much better just because Mitchell is their coach. The players are mostly different from previous years, so to continue to blame the Lions players is just not right. I honestly think you need to look at the coaching and structures. Mitchell has done NOTHING at all to improve the Lions one bit, and the results support this.

  • Comment 21, posted at 27.04.11 16:13:41 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 21) : I’m sorry but playing an exciting brand of rugby, and being involved in closer games, while still losing as many games just does not cut it. Results remain the same. The Lions do not need to play a more exciting brand, they don’t need to be involved in closer games, they NEED TO START WINNING SOME GAMES!

  • Comment 22, posted at 27.04.11 16:20:31 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 22) : I honestly feel bad for Lions supporters, they are spending all kinds of money and not seeing any improvement in performance of the team. I have to be honest, based on their performances so far this year, I don’t think the future looks too bright either. In all their attempts at signing top players, they were not successful in signing a single proven world class player who is still somewhere near their prime. Butch like Cullen is not the future, and Jantjes does not seem up to the pace at Super Rugby level.

  • Comment 23, posted at 27.04.11 20:14:22 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Dancing Bear

Add Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.