Adopt the Bulls style!

2011-05-19 15:34

JJ Harmse

It was amusing to read about the furore in Australia following the comments by Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph that the Aussies are playing ‘school boy rugby’ in their Conference in relation to the ferocity of the derbies in the New Zealand Conference.

Obviously the Aussie coaches hit back with angry responses and for once, the way we play the game in South Africa and more particular, in Pretoria, is not the subject of scrutiny, and may I say, ridicule.

While Joseph probably has his reasons for saying what he did, it made me wonder if we ever will have an unified way of play, something we will call the ‘South African way’.

Do we all need to play the same way? From a national point of view, it would certainly make things a lot easier on the national coach if 80 or 90% of his troops were already on the same wavelength.

One of the biggest problems facing the Springbok is the lack of time to prepare for Test matches. This has been a huge problem since tours fell by the wayside.

With the Sharks, Bulls, Stormers and the former Cats all involved in Super Rugby semis and finals in the last decade, the national coaches have only managed to assemble their squads a week to 10 days before a the first Test of the season.

This leaves very little time to prepare tactically and with the rugby calendar becoming even more congested next year with inbound tours and the Four Nations, the situation will not change much.

A style of play that does not need to be altered too much would be ideal for any Bok coach, as he could then only fine tune instead of overhaul.

As things stand though, all our franchises play different styles of rugby.

Personally, should South Africa adopt a specific style, I feel the Bulls style of play is best suited to Test match rugby and should be adopted by the national coach.

It is all about playing in the opponent's half of the field, a strong set piece and a very reliable goal kicker. Executed well, it is a very good recipe indeed.

I know the Stormers supporters will disagree and indeed they may have a point. It is ironic that they have moved on from their normal game of running rugby and play a much more tactical game now, building their successes in recent times on a massive defensive effort.

In the past, there was a philosophy of ‘we just need to score more tries than the opponents and we will win’.

The Sharks have an attack-orientated game as well and love nothing more than a free flowing game. Their loose forwards are more important to them than any other team.

The Cheetahs, of course, are always happy to run the ball from anywhere, but have progressed in recent years, mainly because their pack is now solid enough for them to score tries from first phase.

The Lions are currently trying to find a new style of play and a particular type of player to fit into that pattern.

Whether the "John Mitchell way" will be a good fit for the traditional 'South African way' remains to be seen.

One could argue that the influence of someone like Mitchell (and John Plumtree to a certain extent) will help the local game in exploring more options and ways to play the game.

Plumtree has lived and played rugby in South Africa for some time and hence has a much better understanding of what makes the South African player tick than Mitchell, and will therefore be much more successful.

So, do we need a national style, and would it be possible?

We've always had big forwards and due to altitude, great kickers of the ball. Any national style should include and embrace that.
It need not necessarily be about the physical attributes of our players, though, but rather the psychological approach.

The reality is that playing winning rugby is paramount. That is the most important thing for the national psyche. It is not about expressing your culture and philosophies on life on the rugby field (like say, the French), but about winning when it matters.

And for that, one has to look at what has brought success in recent times.

The style of play in the 2007 Rugby World Cup and the style of play that won Super Rugby titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010 is what seems to be working best for South Africa.

Do we allow this to become the norm and all strive to play that way, or do we ignore those results and play according to gut feel?

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


  • Plesierspier - 2011-05-19 15:43

    Thank you and Amen. 3 cups in 4 years, say no more!

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 16:04

      I would've loved to see JJ and the great Doc.Craven sitting around a camp fire talking rugby. Both were/are legends.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-05-19 16:31

      @Lloyd - Doc would have kicked JJ in the nuts after 5 minutes. Then he would have set his dog on JJ's ankles......I reckon you would have seen JJ hauling @ss round Papegaaiberg. In fact, I doubt whether JJ would have even been allowed to enter Stellenbosch in the 1st place.

      Oukoos - 2011-05-19 16:39

      Op papier klink dit goed. As ek egter klinies na die Bulls se vertoning vanjaar kyk, kom dit voor asof hul spelpatroon in die praktyk erg ondoeltreffend is en hulle op pad na nêrens is. * Die Bulls het verloor teen die Stormers (ja, LLoyd en Plesierspier, die useless Stormers!) * Hulle het na 11 wedstryde slegs 55% gewen (na die naweek sal dit 50% wees). * Hule lê 8ste op die log, sonder enige hoop om te kwalifiseer vir die uitspeelwedstryde. Dus, Mnr. Harmse, as die Springbokke die Bulls se wedstrydplan implimenteer, is die skrale kans dat hulle die Wereldbeker kan behou, heetemaal poer in sy moer..

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 16:48

      SAFFA, die braai sou by Brakpan dam wees.

      sparkster - 2011-05-19 16:54

      Lloyd, Dr Craven did not really accept people like you in the Rugby Ring.Sorry bud the Titty Slapper Bar is up the road!!

      sparkster - 2011-05-19 17:00

      Lloyd, could they have not given you a Red Speedo to wear in the Vodafone add??

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 17:12

      They wanted to use me for their add campaign, but I couldn't get leave at McDonald's.

      BardofAvon - 2011-05-19 17:21


      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-05-19 17:40

      @Lloyd - were you at the BSU Lloyd? The Feebies? Just curious....

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 18:11

      Wtf is BSU?

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-05-19 18:37

      Behavioral Science Unit....FBI.....@Lloyd

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 19:05

      I thought you meant Baptist Student Union. Only got a free cap, like the ones in the movies.

      Plesierspier - 2011-05-20 04:24

      @Oudoos En as die Bokke die Stormers se styl volg dan kan hulle vir 11 jaar geen bekers wen nie, so maak jou pick!

      HanHan - 2011-05-20 05:14

      @Lloyd - I hope you are sarcastic. If not, the evening will end up in an early bed for JJ.

      KingSmurf - 2011-05-20 09:07

      Bulls het met daai spelpatroon van hulle 2 keer, ja 2 keer, teen die Stormers verloor! En more gaan hulle pakvat teen die Sharks ook!! Bulls se dae is getel!!

  • MrMojoRising - 2011-05-19 15:43

    Dude, you getting paid for this dribble?

      Andre - 2011-05-19 15:57

      You should do some homework, check the worldcups up the the last since 1987. The best defensive side with the more reliable goal kicker invaribly won the thing.

      Howzitekse - 2011-05-19 18:17

      Andre, the Stormers have the best defensive style. JJ does not even elaborate on the Bulls style. What is he actually talking about? Does he even know? The Bulls are running the ball more than the Springboks do. Even the Australians can vary their game. Are we so dumb that we must opt for one predictable way of play? JJ is biased and it is not easy to take him seriously. Every week we must read comments about average players being "the best in the world" etc.

  • Anneleen - 2011-05-19 15:44

    Attack-orientated Sharks, loving a free flowing game...sounds exciting!

      C-Bass - 2011-05-19 16:09

      Being a Sharks supporter I appreciate what Plum has done for us and the attack orientated, keep the ball at all costs approach worked for us in the CC... however I also agree that with JJ that we rely a helluva a lot on our loosies and if they don't get across the advantage line we seem not to have a plan B (Stormers games a case in point). What i would like to see us do is play a more territory based game with the same appreciation for keeping the ball... something which Lambie got right last year in the CC... and of course it would help a lot if we had a solid defender / gain line breaker at 12 with speed to burn at 13...

      Anneleen - 2011-05-19 16:28

      @C-Bass...agree with you with regards to nr's 12 and's wishing all the best to Sharks!! Please Sharks, come up with plan B!

      BardofAvon - 2011-05-19 17:23

      Yes, the Sharks also have a free-flowing Super Rugby trophy cabinet.

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 18:36

      Bard, they have a trophy free cabinet.

  • justitiae - 2011-05-19 15:45

    Yes, at least then we will all know why we could not retain the World Cup. Snorre + Bulls game plan = massive dispair for Springbok supporters.

  • gooinat - 2011-05-19 15:53

    JJ,the tribe has spoken its time for you to leave!!!!!!!!!!!!

      philipk007 - 2011-05-19 16:06

      My comment was just deleted because I disagreed with the trash JJ wrote 100%. Guess they don't like non-conforming comments. Agree with gooinat, vote JJ off!

  • Terence - 2011-05-19 16:00

    now that the bulls are winning again you say this, Im a bulls supporter and i have seen how the media discouraged the bulls playing style when they were losing, What happened now?? why do you only support a team when they win? i personally think the cheetahs have the best game plan!! Typical media

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 16:03

      Cheetahs have best game plan and no cups, like the Stormers.

      sparkster - 2011-05-19 16:56

      Lloyd that should read "The Cheetahs have THE best game plan......!Girl

      Andrew - 2011-05-20 03:18

      "The Cheetahs, of course, are always happy to run the ball from anywhere, but have progressed in recent years, mainly because their pack is now solid enough for them to score tries from first phase" What a load of crap, the Cheetahs have been using the kick and chasevery effectively, the difference is they have at least 3 or 4 players chasing the ball, applying pressure, then they are happy to run the ball, and they have done that very well. Both Sias Ebersohn and Riaan Viljoen have been very accurate with their kicking.

  • StaalBurgher - 2011-05-19 16:14

    Jeez, you are going to take a battering for this article. For one I think you need to clarify exactly what you see as "Bulls style" because I can guarantee you most people reading this will assume it is the up-and-under tactics of 2009. That was probably an extreme form of what you are proposing.

  • SAFFA-CAT - 2011-05-19 16:16

    Ok. I am no JJ fan.(I think he has been in full tard mode for years) Fact. I am no Bulls fan - double fact. But to win the WC this year in NZ, I believe 10 man rugby must be played, and that either SA or England are the only 2 teams that can do it. Now to see if JJ and the Bulls fans are serious about playing a 'Bulls type' game - because I am. In order to implement a Bulls type plan EFFECTIVELY you need to get selections spot-on! As in: no room for ANY passengers. Which would mean no room for Spies & Bakkies for starters. To play 10 man rugby and win you need: (apart from your classic kicking 9 and 10) AN UBER UNSTOPPABLE pack of forwards, who give the oppostion hell whether they are driving players back 5m in the tackle, carrying the ball strongly or competing like demons at the breakdown. 100% Physical. SO: while I concede that the BULLS gameplan could be the answer for this World Cup only (as we are going to probably use it anyway...) the BULLS PLAYERS (some of them) are no longer able to deliver this gameplan effectively. So old JJ - you can't have it both ways. You want Bulls gameplan, Bulls players have to be dropped from the Bok setup. Simple.

      SAFFA-CAT - 2011-05-19 16:32

      Oh yes, and there is no room for John Smit in this gameplan either. Dankie.

  • sannahan - 2011-05-19 16:18

    Are we really sure that this seemingly infallible approach will still be successful seeing that rugby dynamics have definitely changed the past few years? JJ, what is your plan B when our forwards are NOT dominant and our flyhalf cannot control the game as you have in mind? Do I get the impression that you would prefer other provinces to adapt to the Bulls philosophy if they really want their players to get the necessary recognition for the national side? Then you don't need playmakers in the backline?

  • RQd2 - 2011-05-19 16:29

    If Morne Steyn is our first choice flyhalf, then the bulls style of rugby will be played, because he's rubbish at playing any other game plan. If Pat Lambie is picked, then the game needs to be adapted to allow for his attacking mentality and silky passing skills. You can't crowbar a guy like Lambie into a sturgid 10 man game and expect him to play to his full potential, because you are limiting him from the outset...

      HanHan - 2011-05-20 05:12

      Touche! Verdict? We'll play rubbish rugby with rubbish excuses to complement it.

  • Jay - 2011-05-19 16:47

    JJ May be a legend but rugby like the bulls play is rather left in history.

  • yagyah rabin - 2011-05-19 17:03

    I know defense will win the world cup over attacking but i hope for Rugby's sake its now... The Soccer World Cup is always won on defense but Spain even Barcelona change it and it was good for the game...

  • Flemjob - 2011-05-19 17:08

    Please tell me why I should watch and support this style of rugby? I watch the game to be entertained, I dont really care who wins. Less people are watching Southern hemisphere games, and more are watching Northern hemisphere. I watch both, but I'm not as attracted to super rugby as I was when it was still the super 12.

  • BardofAvon - 2011-05-19 17:24

    The Bulls just play rugby.

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 18:37

      Championship winning rugby. Thanks for participating rugby.

      Marcell - 2011-05-19 19:21

      Dis belangrik om die laaste wedstryd van 'n kompetisie te wen. Die Bulle weet hoe. Kyk vir die AB en Stormers. Hulle kan nie.

  • Kleinboet - 2011-05-19 17:34

    Unimaginative and using primary school bullying technic, even if it cost you penalty upon penalty upon penalty ... I'd rather loose and have a game worth watching.

  • Couch Critic - 2011-05-19 17:59

    You obviously do this for free - surely no one can pay you. This is the same style that we played last year in the Tri Nations that you are suggesting. Have you not noticed since the rule changes how firstly the Boks, and now the Bulls in this Super Rugby season have been pathetic?

      Lloyd - 2011-05-19 18:38

      Please report back after Saturday's game. I would love to hear your thoughts then.

      Chadwick - 2011-05-20 10:22

      @Lloyd, Please dude, do yourself a favor and take off the shades over your eyes. Cause honestly, we know how much we all love our own teams, like the Sharks or Bulls etc, but when they're in trouble and playing like boys from a Grade 8 B team, then you have to start keeping quiet instead of running your mouth all the time. Bulls wont win Super Rugby, it's inevitable, it's unavoidable, it's too late for them to change their style now, they're history this year. I'm not trying to smash up your hopes of winning the cup yet again this year....but seriously, time to get in touch with reality.

      Chadwick - 2011-05-20 10:27

      It just BAFFLES me, to the core of my bones under my flesh, how IGNORANT people can be. Like Couch Critic said, it's the same style that got us bliksemed last year running with our tails between our legs in the Tri-Nations. And not only that, but the Bulls, who make up most of the Boks, ALSO suck this year. So how the heck in any mind of a person who understands the basics of rugby and has common sense somewhere within them, can people still insist the Bulls style keep being played??? How??? And I thought these clowns were the ones who were supposed to know all about rugby. Shows that only studying something doesnt teach you all that you should know about it, you need to experience it too.

  • Jacques - 2011-05-19 18:07

    The game and the rules change so the same game will not always work...probably explaining why the Bulls are doing so well this year. Also playing a style of rugby makes you easier to read and analyze. You have to evolve. Combine the styles of all the provinces and use them so we have a game plan a, b, c, d, e etc. which was always lacking with pieter de villiers as coach. It also comes back to the basics, and if you cannot hold on to the ball, catch the ball or steal the ball then you cannot play rugby. Interesting to see how many phases a team can go through in the last 10 minutes. I believe playing a brand of rugby like the act brumbies played a couple of years back where you just couldn’t get the ball from them, running phase after phase is deadly. You need a fit team with big ball carriers. This style also kills the opposition as they have to defend all the time. When the defending team is tired you take the ball to the wings for the kill. I also disagree with JJ on the French “style”. I believe that they are probably the most difficult team to analyze because they have so many tricks up their sleeve. I have always loved the French’’style”, more so when they kick All Black butt. The most important thing for Pdiv is the get a plan B and C.

      BardofAvon - 2011-05-19 18:47

      Dude... please try to make your point concisely. I dunno what you're trying to say exactly!

      Jacques - 2011-05-20 07:20

      thanks for trying

  • Adop - 2011-05-19 19:08

    If you analyse the stormers you will note that they are playing more a Bulls type gameplan than a traditional WP gameplan. Rassie managed to change that, forwards dominate, kick for position then hit with the backs. People tend to forget the Bulls do run with the ball only if the situation is perfect to do that. Last year they scared the most tries (51) in the competition.

      westy09 - 2011-05-19 19:15

      Personally I feel WP play a much more attractive game than the Bulls. Do you remember when the Crusaders played the Bulls. The crusaders killed them because they starved the Bulls of ball and so the bulls couldn't kick the ball otherwise they would most likely give it back to them and the process would repeat. Then the bulls had to try run with the ball and they looked like deer in headlights playing a type of rugby foreign to them. If JJ wants to become a writer he must get over his bias and write proper articles.

      What de D... - 2011-05-19 20:29

      did they scare the tries??? moron

  • westy09 - 2011-05-19 19:08

    It may be effective but it like watching paint dry. Why would you want to watch morne ( i can't tackle or pass) steyn sending missiles in the sky? Yes we execute it well and it has been successful but I would rather watch Pat Lambie or Grant look for gap or 'jol' it out wide. I would prefer to watch the New Zealand backs over the current Boks backs any day as they play exciting and attractive rugby.

  • westy09 - 2011-05-19 19:10

    It may be effective but it is like watching paint dry. Why would you want to watch morne ( i can't tackle or pass) steyn sending missiles in the sky? Yes we execute it well and it has been successful but I would rather watch Pat Lambie or Grant look for gap or 'jol' it out wide. I would prefer to watch the New Zealand backs over the current Boks backs any day as they play exciting and attractive rugby.

  • Rossman - 2011-05-19 21:02

    Thank the good Lord that J.J. Harmse is only allowed to write about rugby and actually has no real involvement in the game or its development. Pheeeew!!

  • Alex Keyser - 2011-05-19 21:26

    @westy09- Do you want to win the world cup or not? We might enjoy your "attractive" rugby style, but not for long, as it will not get us passed the quarters. They need to play a style of rugby that we are good at. It may not be pretty, but Bulls rugby is effective and ultimately brings the trophy home.

  • Alex Keyser - 2011-05-19 21:36

    @Alex Keyser- I agree 100%!! You know what you are talking about..

      westy09 - 2011-05-20 08:55


  • MattP - 2011-05-20 07:22

    I disagree with the notion that a particular country should adopt a single playing style. Surely the not-so-secret weapon in rugby is the ability to adapt to match conditions and situations. Admittedly this is easier said than done. That said, based on trends relating to the game style that has won World Cups in the past, JJ might just have a point. There is a large amount of evidence to suggest that the Bulls find themselves in their current predicament on the back of poor execution. I admittedly have not watched all the Bulls games but history shows that their playing style has garnered success. The poor form shown by messrs Spies, Botha and co have hampered them significantly.

  • oner3116 - 2011-05-20 07:34

    JJ, you are a biast bulls supporter. In all your articles that you write about the Bulls you blow wind up their a#rse! Even if you lose a game, 10% of the article is about the winning team and 90% of the article is about how unlucky the bulls were to lose the game and bad refereeing decisions. I did not even read the above article, when I see JJ Harmse I do not bother because it is always on how great the Bulls are, there are more than that in SA Rugby JJ.

  • ARRA - 2011-05-20 08:00

    Net n EYE-OPENER -Indien die Stormers dalk verloor ,die Bulls die Sharks wen is die log punte Stormers 44, Sharks 43 Bulls 41

  • Wouter - 2011-05-20 08:28

    The Boks should develop there own type of style play wheter it be from the Bulls, Sharks, Wp or Cheethas. I think they should implement the type of play according to the situation, that way no other team can then analyse the Boks play because it would make them very unpredictable and dangerous. Rather implement the game style of The Bulls, Sharks, Wp & Cheethas all 4 of them can run with ball in hand. Yes the Bulls have had a torrid time this year but it doent make them a bad team. Keep the ball in hand use our Big Forwards, defend like trojans and when there is opputunity have good attacking options. The Kick and chase is no longer part of rugby rather starve the opponents from the ball and only kick and chace when you can place the other team under pressure

  • Chadwick - 2011-05-20 10:04

    "Personally, should South Africa adopt a specific style, I feel the Bulls style of play is best suited to Test match rugby and should be adopted by the national coach." Stop right there! I didnt even continue reading the rest of your garbage. When did you start watching rugby boet? 2 Weeks ago? If you havent noticed, the Sprinboks have been playing Bulls rugby, hence why they got their asses handed to them last year and why the Bulls suck this year. So, catch a wake up. It's morons like you who cling on old krappy out-dated nonsense that make it difficult for the Boks to move on. You have basically just shoved a banana up every Bok supporters ass and encouraged Snor to continue relying on the oh-so"mighty" Bulls, who bytheway if you havent noticed, suck right now.

      yagyah rabin - 2011-05-21 08:26

      Dude so right. Bulls rugby may work on weak teams but the top class teams who plays with a brain, i don't think so... Stormers defensive game mix with a bit of the bulls muscle game(pick up and drive not the up and under so New Zealand can rape us) Sharks expansive game when it calls for it too.

  • katman - 2011-05-20 12:16

    Harmse, you've reached a point where it seems you post this pro Bulls rubbish simply to elicit a reaction. Just when exactly did this transition from columnist to online troll take place?

  • Splash D - 2011-05-20 13:14

    JJ, you are an idiot!

  • wolverine - 2011-05-20 13:22


      Carl Muller - 2011-05-20 17:33

      en die 3 belanrikste bekers staan in die kas. WP het niks. Die WP speel al ver meer as 100 jaar rugby. Bulle het eers in 1938 van Transvaal af weg gebreek. So WP speel amper 50 jaar langer as die bulle, en hulle het net 9 bekers meer gewn. Gaan lees bietjie geskiedenis voor jy kom skryf ...

      Plesierspier - 2011-05-21 04:02

      @Wolverine En gaan kyk nou weer die stats van 1938 af toe die Bulle die CC gejoin het. Bulls 23-WP 13 Jy moet appels met appels vergelyk jou dom twat. Tipies tipies WP

  • Phly Dutchie - 2011-05-20 14:58

    JJ, watching the Boks play for the past few years I already think we are playing to a Bulls pattern. I agree with your comment that one style would make it easier - just look at the Kiwis, it is very diffcult to pick up a difference in the way their team plays which is why newcomers fit in so easy in the AB's. However, it needs to be a combination of a strong forward game, kicking for possession HOWEVER when it is on then we need to move the ball (whether it is in the opponents half or counterattacking)

  • Carl Muller - 2011-05-20 17:26

    They should keep the ball in hand and attack. I would make it a mixture of the Bulls, Stormers and Free State game. And I will teach them to defend like the Stormers. And I will teach them to play the ball wide, that is where the most tries are scored. Next the scrum-half must be very quick on the ball, Fourie du Preez allows all the opposition's defence to get together and then he plays the ball. He is too slow. The no 10 must make it a guess where the ball is going to. And only kick strategically. I don't know if Steyn can handle that. We have the fastest wings in the world, and don't use them. When on the opposition's line, play wide and score tires. Playing around the scrum produce very few tries. Surprise the buggers, and we will get far. Bulls forever. PS: I will give the choice to select the team to the coach and selection committee. I know I have a better team and so does all you supporters out there. However I will only be disappointed and demoerin if they don't follow my advice. If they lose I don't have to feel bad, but it is their mistakes and the bad choices they make.

      MonsterHOND - 2011-05-21 22:36

      Ek dink jy kan liewer betaal as JJ - ek stem - Al is ek nie n Bull nie, Kobinasie sal beste werk - Defend soos die Stormers, Bully soos die Bulle, en hardloop soos die Cheetahs! Ek stem baie oor die Nr9, 10 Comments..... Fourie maak nie vinnig genoeg skoon op die stadium nie en Morne kry net die lyn weg as sy pak die ander pak vermosrsel (iets wat nie in die wereldbeker baie gaan gebeur nie). Ek se nie dis my keusie nie - Maar Lambie kan defence nogal laat wonder, Grant ook..... En Super Sarel is die on form 9 in die land.... en maak erg vinnig skoon!

  • Dok - 2011-05-22 08:11

    Is this the same JJ that said not so long ago that the playing style of the Bulls is outdated and that they are predictable? He is an expert yes, in talking twak! We cannot adopt the Bull style of rugby just because they won a game! We need to define our own style, away from all the styles played by SA Super 15 teams! If we adopt any playing style from one of these teams, we can stay home and watch the World Cup on tv!

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