Settled squad pleases Ludeke
Pretoria - A settled core of experience players should translate into improved performances in 2015, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said on Wednesday.
"We are very positive about next year. There is continuity in our personnel with players that we have brought through during the Currie Cup and Super Rugby and, with that, the decision making will be better," Ludeke said regarding his team's campaign in the Super Rugby competition.
Looking back at 2014, Ludeke identified some of the key issues which saw the Pretoria side narrowly missing out on a playoff spot in Super Rugby and being defeated in the Currie Cup semi-final.
"We were competitive but not consistent. We won all of our home matches but we couldn't win any of our away games," he said.
"There were injuries to key players and our loose trio did not fire with the young players and new players performing at that level for the first time.
Those problems manifested in other areas of the game, he said.
"That cost us in other areas of our game, turnovers at the breakdown, carry ability on the gain line which is supposed to put your team on the front foot and create opportunities."
Ludeke was encouraged by the young crop of talent which has been exposed to the Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions.
The Light Blues managed to blood a host of new players during this year's Currie Cup season, which would hold them in good stead over the next few years.
Players such as inside centre Burger Odendaal, utility back Jesse Kriel and Jacques du Plessis have shown the potential to make the step-up to Super Rugby.
"We know we are competitive but we have not been consistent while there have been young and inexperienced players in the transition."
A sobering statistic is the fact that the union had lost 50 top players over the last three years, starting with the loss of 10 stalwarts at the end of 2011.
The Pretoria side, however, weathered the storm to make the Super Rugby playoffs in 2012 with the side losing to the Brumbies in their home semi-final at Loftus Versfeld the following year.
Ludeke said the wave of core players leaving the unit after the 2013 season came as a surprise and left them vulnerable going into this year's Super Rugby competition.
"In 2013 we were caught off guard but with an eye on the future we know what core we are building to get that consistency back in our performance," he said.
"You need six to eight international first-choice players which we didn't have this year -- you can look at the team that wins the competition.
"With us in 2009 and 2010, we had the core of the team but you have to build that team and it is also 50-plus caps. We couldn't tick that box this year."
The Bulls' perceived conservative kick-and-chase game plan had come under severe criticism over the last year.
Ludeke said the plan was innovating but the lack of experience had made it difficult for the team to execute it properly.
"We always played a kick and suffocate game but we have to play a more all-round game but it takes time.
"Players have to be more mobile and you need more players on their feet to give you more options.
"There are no shortcuts but over the next two to three years the goal is to be more consistently competitive."