Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretoria - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has called on fans to “keep the faith” after the team’s disappointing start to the Super Rugby season.
According to the supersport.com website, the Bulls lost their opening two games against the Sharks and Cheetahs and on both occasions were struggling to get their own engine going, failing both on a tactical and a physical level against opposition they would normally look a lot more physical against.
Add to this a disjointed kicking game plan that hasn’t been executed well, and long term injuries to key players such as Pierre Spies and Arno Botha, and there is real concern over the team’s season going ahead and if they will be able to rectify it in order to match their semi-final appearance last year.
Already they are eight points behind the Sharks in the South African conference, and while Super Rugby is a long race, the Bulls haven’t shown much promise yet to give their Loftus faithful much hope.
With the rampant Lions on their way to Loftus this weekend, a third loss would be seen as catastrophic in a competition where the local derbies determine very much where you end up in the South African conference and therefore in the competition at large.
But Ludeke has called for calm among supporters, telling them they need to trust the team’s systems and structures and that a firm belief in this, rather than panic, will be the basis of a turnaround for the Bulls side.
Ludeke pointed out that in both games there were more than enough opportunities and in both games execution was the key factor between the two teams.
“The pressure you are on is the pressure you put on yourself. Our structures are good enough to create the opportunities, as we did. It is just about converting, putting the penalty kick over and getting over the line,” Ludeke said.
“We need to be patient, it will come. We’ve been in a situation like this before, and that is the way you turn it around, you take the emotion out of it and keep working harder, work smarter. Then things will come right.”
Ludeke added that the team were spending time on self-reflection and that they didn’t enjoy being in this position, but that he believed the positivity would return when they got the first win under their belts.
“We don’t enjoy it, hats off to the Cheetahs, they played well. They used their opportunities and they played the right game when they had the lead. They didn’t play rugby, they kicked it behind us and the wet conditions kept them ahead. I still think we had the opportunities in the second half as well,” he added.
“People must just keep faith. That’s how teams turn situations around. We’ve been in this situation before. Once you get your first win, then things start happening.”
The Bulls are set to name their squad on Wednesday for the Lions clash but will be desperate to find victory in front of their home fans.
The Spies injury, coupled with the continuing absence of Deon Stegmann doesn’t make for good reading but Ludeke and his management will need to find a way to get themselves out of the ditch they have dug for themselves.