Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke
is always a “glass half full” type of guy, and for that reason he is taking the loss against the Stormers last weekend as a positive sign to wake his players up.
According to the supsersport.com website, Ludeke has been having low-key one-on-one meetings with all his players as they enjoy their off week ahead of their Super Rugby semi-final next week at Loftus Versfeld, and knows all too well how much the team needs to up its game if it is to have any chance of a fourth Super Rugby title.
And the hammering they received in Cape Town - not so much by the scoreline as their inability to counter what the Stormers brought to the match - is also a massive factor for the Bulls to look at.
But again looking at the positive, they will be at their “fortress” next weekend and will know what to expect from whoever heads their way. They also have a week to put matters right.
“The right loss at the right time in this competition can be a good thing,” Ludeke told supersport.com, “Any team that goes through that, can take it to heart and make adjustments and come back stronger. The Stormers played some great rugby and were better than us on the day. We need to take what we can out of the loss and come back a better side.”
Ludeke said the biggest factor would be to get the players “fresh and ready” for the physical battle they expect next week, and reminded the team’s supporters that they had been in this situation before this year.
“We lost badly in Christchurch earlier this year and we made adjustments to the team and the way we play, and we came back stronger. We know our setpieces weren’t good enough in Cape Town and we need to adjust the way we play. The loss can be a positive thing.
“We are heading into a playoff where it is a once-off situation. The players will experience the pressure of the situation, and know the intensity is different to a normal league game. But we know what to expect and we will be ready.”
The Bulls will also welcome back Francois Hougaard and Jan Serfontein to the side for the semifinal, but will miss the likes of Arno Botha, Pierre Spies (injured) and Juandre Kruger (France) in the lineouts.
Flip van der Merwe is also over his injury and will be joined by Paul Willemse, who played for the under-21s last week alongside Grant Hattingh in contention for the two lineout spots.
But it is clear the last two weeks showed the Bulls where they have gone wrong and what needs to be adjusted so they have a shot at success.
A week away from the action and a week in training is all the time they have to make the adjustments, knowing that this time there is no second chance if they get it wrong.