In the lead-up to the Super Rugby war that will play itself out at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday between the Bulls and the Sharks, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has steered clear of talk on whose war tactics will win between his and those of Sharks director of rugby Jake White.
It was last year, in the same competition and at the same stadium, that White conjured up a master plan that not only saw his Brumbies team knock out the Bulls but also make history by being the first team to beat the Bulls in a Super Rugby semi-final.
The stakes won’t be as high this weekend, but whichever of the two coaches comes up with a master plan that his team executes well will undoubtedly walk away with the spoils, which will go a long way in enhancing their chances of being there at the end.
Ever diplomatic and never one to engage in a war of words, Ludeke deflected the attention from himself and White and that of the revenge factor that comes with this game after the Sharks beat the Bulls in the first round.
Ludeke did admit that the team with the best plan which was well executed would win, and said that was all his team were concerned with.
“I think it is never about the individual battles. I’m a nobody if I don’t have my management around me. It is not just me against the other coaches,” said Ludeke yesterday.
“We as a team playing against the other opposition, we want to make sure we are there at the end when it really matters. Like all the other teams we want to win the competition. Every week is a vital game, we must be smart and you must take all the emotion out of it. You must play the plan for 80 minutes and the team that executes the best will be the team on top.
“That is exactly what we want to do this weekend, to be accurate, work hard and earn the result at the end of the day,” Ludeke said at his team announcement. But there was also an acknowledgement of the effect White has had on the dominance of the Sharks so far this season.
“They are playing well and Jake has a big hand in it and his whole management team there.
“They are doing a fantastic job. They play more a percentage type of game and strong defence. It is going to be a great battle on the weekend,” said Ludeke.
In an ever-growing effort to achieve the perfect performance for 80 minutes, Ludeke has been fortunate in that he has had little disruption in his team selection. He bolstered his team further yesterday with the inclusion of veteran loose forward Dewald Potgieter and SA Sevens speedster Sampie Mastriet.
With 66 Super Rugby caps, Potgieter will add on to the experience within an already formidable Bulls pack that includes the likes of Victor Matfield, captain Flip van der Merwe and flank Deon Stegmann.
Mastriet replaces Akona Ndungane, who is still on compassionate leave after the death of his father, and even though Mastriet has played only one Super Rugby game, the Bulls will exploit his speed out wide in their endeavour to score tries.
“This is the difference between that first game we played against the Sharks and now,” said Ludeke.
“There are a lot of players that have come into the team. The combinations are settling down now and we’ve had two solid wins. Everybody is comfortable with the way we want to play and they understand their roles better.” - Pretoria News