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The real Bull….story?

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An interesting article by Brenden Nel.

It was just under a year ago that I happened to be sitting at Trademarx, the restaurant next to the Vodacom Bulls’ training field and overheard a conversation.

It involved two of the young stars at the union, discussing their futures. One was loose forward Jean Cook and the other IRB under-20 Player of the year nominee Shaun Adendorff.

“I’m not happy,” Cook told Adendorff, “I’ve got an offer from the Cheetahs, and I think I’m going to take it.”

“I think I’ll come right with the Sevens team,” Adendorff answered, both looking distant and not in the best of spirits.

I decided not to approach them at that stage, as there was so much else going on. Several of the Bulls Springboks had already announced they were heading to clubs in Europe, while others were openly talking to me about the Bulls’ new policy of recruitment.

It was the same policy that saw players such as Dewald Potgieter, Jano Vermaak and Willie Wepener offered half their salaries to renew their contracts.

Now I don’t know anyone who would take a 50 per cent salary cut and then expect to stay loyal to the same employers that treated them so badly.

The Bulls were telling all who would listen they couldn’t afford to match the European and Japanese salaries, when in private they were simply making the decision very easy for the players to leave. You have to wonder why, especially as the likes of Potgieter, Vermaak and Wepener (not to mention Jacques Potgieter) were all still under contract until after the Currie Cup. All were released before the domestic competition started and, in retrospect, could have made a telling difference to that side, which missed out on making the semifinals of the competition.

All the time the Bulls were selling the tune that everyone was happy, nobody wanted to leave and that the exodus was made so by the falling rand, and players wanting to make a quick buck overseas.

Roll ahead to 2014.

With all that in mind, Adendorff now at the Sevens, Cook at Free State and a host of young players in this Bulls squad, the scene was set for their Super Rugby campaign.

The management, along with those who are responsible for contracting at the union, were now selling the line that “the next generation” needs to make the step up, they need to take over the mantle from those who have left.

Which is all good and well, until the injuries of Arno Botha and Pierre Spies came about.

Suddenly, after two opening losses in the competition the youth policy seems to have been abandoned, and now the Bulls look like they’re on a shopping spree second to none.

Already we’ve seen the signings of Wimpie van der Walt (on a short-term contract) and the return of Dewald Potgieter – never mind that the Bulls basically forced him to leave last season when he wanted to stay.

Then there have been the reports that the Bulls want to sign Juan Smith, the experienced Bok flank who is playing his rugby at Toulon after a two-year injury absence.

When I heard about Smith, I made a phone call to Xander Janse van Rensburg, who is the High Performance Manager at the Bulls, and asked about Smith.

“Yes, we’re interested in him,” he told me.

“But he’s 32?” was my answer

“But he’s playing the best rugby of his life, did you see his last game?” he fired back.

“But he’s 32?” I said again.

The point being that even if the Bulls signed Smith, he would have a maximum of a season at the union. He’s a short-term option. Whatever happened to backing the youth?

Some of the coaching staff tell me the youth policy has been shelved, that the Bulls “don’t believe in the youngsters anymore”. I certainly hope this isn’t true. Jacques du Plessis has been great in this year’s Super Rugby tournament.

The mixed messages coming out of the union are strange in themselves. Do they believe in the youth brigade or not? Are they backing their systems or not? Or is it an admission that the systems have failed and the young players are not up to it?

Was last year’s decision to let all that experience go a mistake? It certainly seems, by bringing back Potgieter, they’re at least partly admitting to it.

It’s all a far cry from the way things were done when the Bulls were on top of their game.

Back then, when Ian Schwartz was High Performance Manager, it was a rarity that any player wouldn’t be sewn up when the negotiating window of 1 June opened up. Schwartz, who is now Bok team manager, used to privately tell us that if the Bulls hadn’t signed a player by that time, they were content to let him go.

There were few exceptions, few players who left who actually went on to better things at other provinces. Adriaan Strauss is one. Bryan Habana – although it is debatable if his provincial career was better in Cape Town – was the other. In both cases the Bulls didn’t want the players to leave, and in both cases family members held sway over the decisions.

Since the change in management the Bulls have lost the likes of Cook, Adendorff and CJ Stander. They backed Louis Fouche over Marnitz Boshoff, they let the two Potgieters go (and look at the impact Jacques has made at the Waratahs).

Add that to the coaching decisions – to bring in Jacques-Louis Potgieter and leapfrog Handre Pollard and the continued backing of Callie Visagie over the talented Bongi Mbonambi and it is clear that some decisions are taken on the whim.

There is no clear and concise policy to recruiting anymore. Rash decisions are made and, in the long term, the team will pay the price. The edge the Bulls always had over other unions is gone.

Now they sit and try to rebuild while plastering cracks when backing their systems should be the way forward.

Don’t be surprised should this continue andyou hear of more young talent heading away from Loftus. The warning signs are there.

If only those who are in charge will see it.

Cell C Sharks 37, Lions 23

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imagesThe Lions can make a big statement to their detractors this week, as they look to leap-frog the Sharks on the South African Conference standings.

The Sharks, despite their bye last week, remained the conference pace-setters courtesy of the Bulls’ win over the Lions. The men from Durban have looked the most settled and organised unit in the competition, which may have something to di with the arrival of Jake White as a Director of Coaching, They even managed to score a four-try bonus point against the Bulls in the humidity last month.

However, the Lions feel they also have the game to cope with the additional moist that will be around. “We were [tactically] very good against the Stormers, which shows that we can do it [play a tactical game],” Lions coach Johan Ackermann told this website. “Our attitude last week was perhaps not attuned to it [wet conditions],” he said of the Lions’ loss to the Bulls.

“This week we know that we are playing in a city with high humidity and testing conditions. “We must have the ability to play both [types of games] – we must run when it is on and we must be tactically better when it is required of us.”

The Lions received high praise from the Sharks’ 2007 World Cup winner Frans Steyn. “The Lions have been playing really well and I’m happy for them,” the Springbok centre said. “They’ve been through a tough time last year when they weren’t playing, but we’re looking forward to playing them.” However, it is the influence of White that keeps pooping up.

“Everybody knows what a good coach Jake is, he has a proven record with the South African Under-21 team, the Springboks and Brumbies,” Steyn said. “He’s been doing well and we’ve won our first two games with him, we’re all looking forward to the season ahead.”

Recent results:
2012: Lions won 38-28, Johannesburg
2012: Sharks won 32-20, Durban
2011: Sharks and Lions drew 30-30, Johannesburg
2011: Sharks won 27-3, Durban
2010: Sharks won 32-28, Johannesburg
2009: Sharks won 25-10, Durban

Teams:

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 S’bura Sithole.

Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jacobus Jonker, 23 Coenie van Wyk.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

Vodacom Bulls 38, Blues 22

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imagesIt is likely to be two very contrasting styles, as the Bulls hope to rain on the Blues’ parade.

In their four-try demolition of the Crusaders last week the Blues showed just how dangerous they can be.However, the weather predictions suggest conditions may not favour their free-running game – mostly cloudy, with a couple of showers and a thunderstorm late in the afternoon.

The Bulls’ set pieces have been solid – a 92 percent success rate at scrum time and 90 percent in the line-outs.In stark contrast, the Blues have not started the season well in the set pieces – 57 percent in the scrums and 78 percent in line-outs. However, the men from Pretoria have scored only two tries in three matches and the Blues seven in two.

“Defence will definitely be very important,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke told this website in an interview.

He pointed out that against both the Highlanders in Round Two (even though they lost after leaving the charge a bit late) and the Crusaders last week the Blues came back strongly after trailing by some margin early in the game. “They may have left it a little late in that game against the Highlanders, but against a quality team like the Crusaders they showed just how dangerous they can be in broken play,” Ludeke said.

“We have to control possession, tactically we have to be very good – play in the right areas and ensure we have good defensive lines.” The Bulls mentor spoke of requiring “an enormous team effort”.

Blues coach John Kirwan said that after playing two games against New Zealand opposition this season, the Bulls would pose a completely different challenge and that his team needed to brace themselves for a bruising encounter. “The difference when you play in South Africa is the brutality of the contact,” Kirwan said.

“They’re big men, they drive sometimes in twos, when they’ve got the ball they love the physicality of the rucks so they’ll fly into them and you just need to be ready for that. “They play a very simple game that they know very well – lots of mauling, lots of high kicks and lots of pressure underneath that so we just need to be ready and make sure we can combat that.

“I think the game plan and the way we play will challenge them, we just need to be up for the physical battle.”

Recent results:
2013: Bulls won 28-21, Auckland
2012: Blues won 29-23, Pretoria
2010: Blues won 32-17, Auckland
2009: Bulls won 59-26, Pretoria
2008: Blues won 23-21, Auckland
2007: Bulls won 40-19, Pretoria

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Jono Ross, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe (captain), 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Paul Willemse, 20 Jacques Engelbrecht, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Chris Noakes, 23 Pita Ahki.

Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Sieg van Staden (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

Stormers fall short again

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I think there is a song called “The one that got away” from that girl with the purple hair, but this song will ring in the ears of the Stormers and their supporters.

The Crusaders stole this one from the Stormers with a 14-13 win as both teams could only score one try in the game.

These two teams started this game as two teams that struggled to get of the starting blocks and more so from the multiple champions from New Zeeland.

Defence was always going to be the one phase that would have kept the Stormers in touch with the Crusaders and they had to defend like demons in the first 20 minute of the game. In some way they could feel lucky that they did not go further behind as the Crusaders went for scrums and lineouts from kickable penalties close to the Stormers line.

The Stormers had to be happy with no ball as Scarra Ntubeni could not find his locks and they struggled to get any forward ball in the scrums with the Crusaders scrumming them off the ball and the referee with penalties against them. The time has come for Coetzee and Kie to realize that Scarra is not the best in the number 2 jumper.

In the past three weeks we show the Stormers losing most of their own lineouts and had to live with his bad lineouts as he cannot find his locks. Liebenberg made a huge difference when he came on in the second half after Scarra got injured which looked like a leg injury.

This Stormers team have enough good players to fair good in this competition but the brain trust must select the correct player in the correct position. As we expect from the Stormers so far this year they create enough scoring changes but do not look like they have the ability to land the final punch and pull away from teams when they get into that position.

Damian de Allende and Schalk Burger was the outstanding players for the Stormers and De Allende is one for the future if he can go on and play the way he has done so far for the Stormers. Demetri had a bad game for the Stormers and his kicking game was the worse I have seen from him so expect Grant to start next week for the Stormers.

The less said about the referee the better and both team will look at some of his decision and his friends on the sideline and think did the IRB changed the laws without telling them? I am starting to agree with some that our biggest threat in the game today is the inability of referees to manage the game and be consistent with their calls week after week.

The Stormers have still a long way to go to be a team in this competition that the top teams will worry about, but at least they playing better each week. You would hear the supporters scream this week for them to be able to land the knock out punch in their attack as they do create enough to score the tries they desperately needs.

Next week they will face the champion from last year on their second game on tour down under and just maybe they will surprise us all.

Western Force 32, Rebels 7

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imagesThe struggling Western Force, stuck at the foot of the competition table, will look to mark Matt Hodgson’s 100th Super Rugby match with their first win of the season.

The Western Australian captain becomes the first player to represent the franchise in 100 tournament matches, having begun his career in the Force’s first Super Rugby match against the Brumbies in 2006.

Force coach Michael Foley says his team is focused on a performance worthy of such an achievement.

“Saturday is significant and fitting milestone for Matt and his family,” he said.

“The commitment Matt has made to the franchise over its relatively brief history has earnt him the respect of every member of the Force family.

“Our focus is to be stronger from the start of the match.

“While we’ve identified the things that are costing us, the challenge is to ensure we nail those areas for Matt and our supporters on Saturday”

The Force will be looking to bounce back following last weekend’s loss to the Brumbies and have promoted flyhalf Sias Ebersohn, fullback Jayden Hayward, prop Pek Cowan and lock Wilhelm Steenkamp to the starting line-up.

Towering lock Adam Coleman and outside back Marcel Brache are also in line to make their Super Rugby debuts for the Western Force off the bench.

Matches between the two sides have always been close, with a converted try the greatest margin in their previous six encounters – with three decided by a solitary point.

The Rebels will be looking to continue their strong start to the season, following last weekend’s 35-14 win over the Cheetahs in Melbourne.

The Rebels have made six changes to their starting XV – with Paul Aloe-Emile and Max Lahiff helping form a new front row; Cadeyrn Neville at lock; Colby Faingaa at openside flank; while flyhalf Angus Roberts and winger Tom Kingston are the new faces in the backline.

The Rebels teams boasts three former Force players in Luke Jones, Mitch Inman and Paul Alo-Emile, while Heath Tessmann will line up against his former Melbourne teammates.

Rebels coach Tony McGahan said they haven’t spoken about the Rebels strong win-loss ratio against the Force.

“What we have spoken about is that every game that has been played in the history of the franchise has been decided by no more than seven points, and that is what we are concerned with,” McGahan said.

“We are not at a stage where we worry too much about the opposition, we’ve got a lot of respect for what they can do and what they have done in the past, but really it’s about us backing each other up and us protecting each other.

“We’ve got enough things to learn and do better at ourselves, and we’re not really interested in the Force’s motivation in regards to where they are at, and where they need to get to.

“We know that they are a really resilient group, with the ability to grind out results.”

Recent results:
2013: Rebels won 30-23, Perth
2013: Rebels won 30-23, Melbourne
2012: Rebels won 32-31, Perth
2012: Rebels won 30-29, Melbourne
2011: Force won 27-24, Melbourne
2011: Rebels won 26-25, Perth

Teams:

Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacement: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.

Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Angus Roberts, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (captain), 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Lachlan Mitchell.

Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ian Smith (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Crusaders 14, DHL Stormers 13

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imagesThe Crusaders have lost the services of one of their most valuable warriors, Richie McCaw. The Stormers have gained the muscle of one of their most battled-hardened players, Schalk Burger.

And while the loss of one player can be overcome, given the Crusaders’ rich resources among the loose forwards, the return of Burger is seen as crucial to the visitors’ cause.

“It is a vital game, against a strong Crusaders side,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said of his team that has one win (by a single point) from two starts this season.

While the loss of McCaw (with a fractured thumb) is a loss, Coetzee was quick to point out that the still have a tried-and-trusted combination with a big forward pack.

“[The] experience [of a player like Burger] will be crucial,” Coetzee said in a teleconference call from Christchurch.

“It is great to also have Peter Grant in the mix,” he said, adding: “That is what we will be needing.

“We have been talking about creating opportunities, [but] our conversion rate is not good at this stage.

“That comes because of the inability to stay calm, because of a lack of composure.”

Coetzee said his players were “a bit frantic” with ball in hand in previous weeks.

“That is what we need to have this weekend [calmness and composure],” he said, adding: “You have to take your opportunities and that comes with the experienced players on the field .”

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder is no doubt frustrated about his team’s defeats to the Chiefs and Blues, which left them second from bottom with no points.

“I don’t like losing at all,” he told Fairfax NZ News.

“I hate losing and we have got a team that is better than the performances we have put on the track,” Blackadder added.

“We have high expectations from everyone, most of all ourselves. We are pretty pissed off.”

He said this week was not just about taking responsibility, but working on executing the game plan.

“And bringing a bloody physical mindset and now the next task is having the ability to deliver it. There’s no point talking about it – I’m over talking about it.”

Recent results:
2013: Crusaders won 19-14, Cape Town
2012: Crusaders won 31-24, Christchurch
2011: Crusaders won 29-10, Cape Town (semifinal)
2011: Crusaders won 20-14, Cape Town
2010: Stormers won 42-14, Cape Town
2009: Crusaders won 11-7, Christchurch

Teams:

Crusaders: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Israel Dagg, 10 Tom Taylor, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Luke Whitelock, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Kieron Fonotia.

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Ruan Botha, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Sailosi Tagicakibau.

Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant referees: Glen Jackson (New Zealand), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Watt (New Zealand)