Andries Bekker labels Reinhardt Ludwig a ‘golden find’ for Bulls

Andries Bekker says Bulls lock Reinhardt Ludwig’s work rate ‘is something that makes him special’. Photo: BackpagePix

Andries Bekker says Bulls lock Reinhardt Ludwig’s work rate ‘is something that makes him special’. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Feb 23, 2024


He was a colossus himself in the second row for club and country, and now Andries Bekker believes that he has another special prodigy at the Bulls.

Bekker, now 40 and back in South Africa after playing and coaching in Japan at the Kobe Steelers, was somewhat ahead of his time as a No 5 lock for Western Province, the Stormers and Springboks.

While the 2.08m giant was outstanding in the line-outs, he was also a superb ball carrier who ran excellent lines and got stuck in when it got physical as well.

Now he may have someone similar on his hands at Loftus Versfeld in the shape of young second-rower Reinhardt Ludwig.

The 21-year-old has emerged from junior rugby with aplomb, dovetailing between No 4 and No 5 lock, and even blindside flank, to earn the praises of Bulls boss Jake White.

Ludwig isn’t shy to do the hard yards up front, but is also a willing ball carrier and strong defender.

The 1.99m, 112kg forward could be a key figure for the Bulls in next Saturday’s massive United Rugby Championship clash against the Stormers at Loftus, and has played a vital role in his team’s progression to third spot on the URC log, as well as a place in the Champions Cup round of 16.

“I think Reinhardt Ludwig is one of the golden finds of the season so far. He is young, clever, he wants to train hard and wants to learn and become better,” Bekker said this week.

“His work rate is something that makes him special, and it is easy for him because he is learning from Ruan Nortjé, who is one of the better locks in the country.

“The big thing for Reinhardt is to just handle that pressure. He has played a whole lot of games at four and five, but if you want to take the next step, it is about constantly, under pressure, making the right decisions – to make the right line-out calls, to make sure everybody understands the detail.

“I’m not saying that he isn’t doing it, but if you do that the whole day and every day, and the guys around him understand, then the next step for him will be being one of the finds of the URC season, and being one of the best URC players for the next few years.

“But these are young players. The young lock coming through, JF van Heerden, is only 19 and has already played a URC game.

“The depth in the squad at lock alone is very good, and then in the loose forwards, it’s Elrigh Louw, Cameron Hanekom, Mpilo (Gumede), who want to work hard and get better.

“Then you have the older guys like Marcell (Coetzee) and Wilco (Louw), who want to help the guys. The desire of the guys to want to improve is quite exciting,” Bekker said.

While the Bulls have been more consistent this season and have won seven out of 10 URC matches to be on 35 points, third behind Leinster (39) and Glasgow (36), they have yet to reach their full potential.

Their best performance was arguably in the Champions Cup win over Bristol in England, but Bekker said the two-week break from last weekend’s 25-10 win over the Lions is an important period to fine-tune certain things before taking on the Stormers, who have won seven in a row against their great rivals.

“For me, personally, it’s been up and down. We’ve had a couple of good performances, but then we seem to drop our standards a little bit in the next game – and then it takes us a game to get back to where we want to be,” Bekker said.

“But it’s not all negative. There are a lot of positive things going on, but we just need to get two or three games together where we can perform, and where it’s close to that perfect performance that we are looking for.

“We just need to be better with our basics, and the break gives us an opportunity to work on those things instead of during a game week.

“If we can sort out our kicking game, and how we can transfer pressure and relieve pressure, I think in the modern game, that’s probably the biggest thing that you have to get perfect – to make the game easier.

“It’s difficult when you play the Lions who don’t play in their half, and then the Stormers play more and kick a little bit less, and then in the next game, they kick a little bit more.

“It’s that fine balance of how you can transfer pressure and relieve that pressure – I think that’s our biggest work-on.”