With one game remaining and it being a matter of life and death in this year’s Super Rugby competition, one would expect the Bulls to be hard at work on the training ground making sure that all their bases are covered.
But not this Bulls team. Even after a potentially season- ending loss against the Sharks last Friday, Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has given his men two days off.
The fact that there has been no on-the-field activity as per norm could easily be misinterpreted that Ludeke has rewarded his side for losing by handing them some breathing space on Monday and yesterday. But rumour has it that Ludeke read his team the riot act after their heartless showing in Durban.
While Ludeke denied there being any harsh words said towards his players and the two days being one of self-reflection, the coach has left it to the players to determine their own fate in the competition.
Ludeke defended the lack of training as time used by the team to repair the walking wounded ahead of today’s training session with Friday’s captain’s run being the final preparation session the team will have ahead of their encounter against the Lions at Loftus on Saturday.
“It’s nothing really. We just need to make sure we sort out all the niggles,” said Ludeke yesterday.
“There are a couple of small injuries and it doesn’t help to aggravate them. The players are still at Loftus, even though they’re not on the field – they’re at the physiotherapists and doing one-on-one sessions with the coaches.
“The Sharks game was an important one for us, and they exerted a lot of pressure on us and we struggled to get out of our half, but we were better in the second half against them. Our reaction time wasn’t good at all and I’m definitely not satisfied. But we have an important game this weekend against the Lions and we need to come back and win this weekend,” Ludeke stressed.
While the coach realises the need to win against the Lions, and to do so convincingly with a bonus point if they are to secure a play-off berth, the big question is whether the Bulls leadership group of players can stand up, lead from the front and inspire the rest of the team.
Just like last season, the Bulls’ hopes of getting to the knock-out stages will hinge on one game and while it might not be formidable opponents like the Sharks were last year, the Lions can be just as lethal in delivering the fatal blow to their title aspirations.
“We need to be more accurate this weekend and win. Losing is part of this competition and you need to take responsibility when you lose to come back and stand up and ensure you win again after that,” said Ludeke.
Meanwhile, the Bulls confirmed that they have released Springbok centre Wynand Olivier for six months for the blond midfielder to take up a lucrative contract with Japanese club Ricoh Black Rams.
Olivier will miss out on the Bulls’ Absa Currie Cup campaign but is set to return for one more Super Rugby season with the Bulls before his contract with the Pretoria franchise expires.
“We have decided to release Wynand from his Currie Cup duties for this period and allow him to play for the Black Rams in their Top League and Japanese Cup competitions. We believe this is a win-win situation for Wynand, the Bulls and the Rams,” said Blue Bulls Company CEO Barend van Graan yesterday.