Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has a straightforward message for his team ahead of Saturday’s big match against the in-form Reds in Brisbane.
“We have to back ourselves, it doesn’t help to be negative. We know what we can achieve, we just need to do the small things right and it will come right,” Ludeke told SuperSport.com ahead of the game, and it will be a mantra that will be repeated before the game this weekend.
The fact that the Bulls have never won at Suncorp stadium means little to Ludeke and co, and even less the fact his side couldn’t score a point against the Crusaders in what has to be their worst performance this millennium.
Some may say he is in denial, but Ludeke says quite candidly he isn’t concerned about the form of his senior players eight weeks into the competition, where their hopes of defending their title seem to be floundering.
“I’m not worried,” Ludeke answers plainly, “I know what we are capable of and we just need to go out there and correct things this weekend.”
It is a defiant tone out of the Bulls camp, especially in a week where the debate has centred very much about how outdated their game plan is, how certain players are “over the hill” and how everyone is writing them off at the moment.
“We have never singled individuals out, and we won’t do it now,” Ludeke continues, “Against the Crusaders we didn’t play well as a team, we made bad mistakes that put us under pressure. But we need to stand up as a team and we need to correct small things, do things in the right manner and attack the right channels.”
Ludeke says it has never been necessary to sit down players who are out of form, neither has it been necessary to fire up the troops if they are playing badly.
“As a team we continually talk about belief, we talk about winning. We know that where correction is necessary it will happen. In the video sessions the players put their hands up and accept responsibility for what they did wrong. It has never been necessary to single out individuals.”
“Against the Crusaders we didn’t play well. There are no excuses for the loss but we still have the whole tournament ahead of us. Last year at the same stage, we lost badly against the Blues in Auckland and we were criticised. We know we can only back ourselves and we need to go and make it right this weekend.”
So how do the Bulls beat the Reds at a venue they’ve never won at, against opposition that have momentum after five straight wins, and suddenly right their own wrongs of the past week.
“We have to play good rugby,” Ludeke counters, “and we have to play it for 80 minutes. The momentum we lost after the previous two weeks we need to get back. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Fighting talk indeed. The Bulls know there is only one way to silence their critics – and that is on the playing field.