Johannesburg - Bulls coach Frans Ludeke is cautiously optimistic about the coming rugby season after his team - in their first and only outing with a probable Super Rugby squad - comprehensively beat the Cheetahs 39-16 at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.
The Bulls excelled up front where their retention was outstanding, and the young backline also showed their potential against a shallow and committed Cheetahs defence that gave little away.
Ultimately, however, it was about more than just the winning for Ludeke.
"What was important for me was to look at the things we had been working on, our combinations; there were a number of new players on the field who hadn't played for us before. We therefore had other goals," said Ludeke.
He was impressed with the Bulls' ball retention, but felt they should have finished off more of their opportunities. "It was a tough contest. It always is against the Cheetahs. We both played to get field position, and I think we succeeded on the day a little better than they did," he said.
"We can say we're happy, there is lots of hope for the season as well. A problem was the decision-making," Ludeke said.
He said opportunities were lost mainly through hanging on to the ball for too long and not feeding the man-over.
He pointed out that this was to be expected in an early outing.
Ludeke said they could only improve and he felt that a great foundation had been laid for the season ahead.
He was also happy with the Bulls' defence in smothering the Cheetahs' attacks.
Ludeke said that the Cheetahs were good with ball in hand throughout the match, although they had little in the way of possession for the first 50 minutes or so.
The Bulls coach's decision to shuffle his backline as a whole also paid dividends.
Of the starting XV, he moved Francois Hougaard to wing in the place of Bjorn Basson, who in turn moved to fullback with Zane Kirchner being deployed at outside centre.
Outside centre Johann Sadie moved to inside centre in place of Francois Venter, who was replaced after a satisfactory first outing at this level.
Louis Fouché replaced Morné Steyn at flyhalf while Jano Vermaak took Hougaard's place behind the scrum.
Ludeke said the changes were to ascertain what reserve strength he had in all the positions, and was happy with the move.