Bulls captain Pierre Spies may have the physique of a gladiator and be the leader of one of Super Rugby’s more formidable teams, but it has been the lack of the passion-filled and bloodthirsty war talk that has failed to scare teams coming to Loftus Versfeld in recent times.
But ahead of the Bulls’ opening 2013 Super Rugby encounter against their old foes, the Stormers, at Loftus on Friday evening, the tone with which Spies delivered his words yesterday was that of a man ready to lead through his actions and certain that his team won’t be the vanquished but rather the victors.
There was no need for the froth or bloodied eyes that come with many win-at-all costs speeches. Instead Spies is at ease with the fact that his team is one year older and therefore wiser and will not commit the same mistakes as those of last season, which included conceding victory to the Stormers at home.
Even with on-loan Lions back Lionel Mapoe and prop Morné Mellett making their debuts for the Bulls in Super Rugby on Friday, Spies believes that his team can go all the way this year starting with a win against a very good Stormers side.
“We learnt a lot especially from the little inches we missed,” Spies said.
“This year we are a year older, a lot more mature and the guys are a bit more settled with each other in the team environment and they are looking forward to a great season.
“The guys really enjoy playing alongside each other so we are glad the pre-season is finished and now it is time to get to the business.
“We want to get the season going and we know the Bulls have a rich tradition of winning, but for us it’s about reaching our goals and the things we have set for ourselves.
“We want to play good and winning rugby and want to see ourselves in the final, but that is a weekly process and it will all start this weekend against the Stormers.
“They are a great outfit and have been the South African team of the year in Super Rugby for the past two years at least and it will be a nice challenge for us,” said Spies at yesterday’s team announcement.
Spies’ confidence stems from the fact that even without Springboks Jacques Potgieter, Akona Ndungane and Dean Greyling in the team, the likes of Mapoe, who toured with the Springboks at the end of last year, and substitute flank Arno Botha along with Mellett, have proven themselves worthy in the past 12 months.
Botha will start from the bench as Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has opted for the experience of Deon Steg-mann but there is no doubt that Botha is likely to make an impact when he comes on as a substitute.
“They are two quality players (Ndungane and Potgieter) and luckily we have some good depth in Lionel and Arno filling those positions. For us it is something we’ve got to get used to during the season and we must adapt to things we don’t plan and hopefully the guys filling those gaps make it a special effort and make a big impact,” said Spies.
But it is the over 800 Super Rugby caps within the Bulls starting line-up that should be able to match and ultimately overcome the Stormers, if the stern but measured words by Spies are to be believed.
Bulls starting xv: Zane Kirchner, Lionel Mapoe, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (capt), Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morne Mellett. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouche, Francois Venter. - The Star