PRETORIA - Don’t be fooled by the results of the past few years. With a new coach at the helm in John Mitchell, the Bulls go into this year’s Super Rugby season as a new team with a new thinking and approach according to loose forward Hanro Liebenberg.
After finishing in a lowly 15th place last year and having last featured in the play-offs five years ago, this will be the season of reckoning for a relatively young Bulls team that has huge ambitions to return the glory years back to Loftus.
“We are a new team with a new mentality and a new approach to things so I would definitely say we are a new team. Thinking wise, playing wise we are a much different team to last year and that’s what makes everyone positive going into the season. I think everyone is very hopeful and excited for the season,” said Liebenberg.
What will be key to the Bulls new way of thinking and playing will be their ability to make better use of ball in hand while also being as effective without ball in hand.
Simply put, the Bulls will need to score a deluge of tries while keeping the opposition at bay and they could not have asked for a more testing opponent first up than former Super Rugby champions, the Hurricanes at Loftus on Saturday.
“I think a good or bad start you can never relax or get comfortable even when you are on your best. That is something we have to work on especially when we are playing away from home, getting points and scoring tries that will be one of the key focus areas for us. Most of the teams that played in the semi-finals and finals are teams that score tries. But with that also comes a good defensive structure and keeping them out. So it is a bit of both attack and defence,” Liebenberg said.
And with both teams playing in their first game of the season, the men in blue will be banking on having a good start at home while being mindful of the new thinking and playing style that they will need to implement.
“It is their (Hurricanes) first game of the season just as much as it is our first one as well and both teams will test and try out a few things. It is a great opportunity for us to start the season well here at Loftus. I think it will be a good game for both teams.”
The comforts of playing at home will be meaningless though for the Bulls considering how porous they were at Loftus last year and playing against a star-studded side, Liebenberg is fully aware of the challenge that awaits them on Saturday.
Fortunately for the home side, they did their best to simulate the manner in which the Hurricanes play in their last preseason hit out last Saturday but even that will be a far cry from what the New Zealanders are likely to produce.
“I think we had a good preseason. We had three warm-up matches and one against each other and our preparation was good. The team we played against played the Hurricanes structure that put us under pressure at times and gave us a good idea of what the Hurricanes are going to bring. They are always physical and also bring an intensity to their play. It is going to be a tough one for our first game but we are up for the challenge,” said Liebenberg.