Bulls forced to change, but keep positive
With injuries playing a major part in the team selection process ahead of the Vodacom Bulls’ match against the Waratahs on Friday, you would expect a manner of discomfort on week two of the four-week journey across the Antipodes.
Instead, coach Frans Ludeke announced the team with a spring in his step as he spoke confidently of the space the team is currently in ahead of the Waratah clash.
Four changes -- mainly due to injury -- were the bottom line in his selection process, while Dean Greyling’s trip back to South Africa for the birth of his child has also robbed Ludeke of his services for the week.
Jacques Potgieter (knee), Wynand Olivier (ribs) and Frik Kirsten all are injured with only Olivier staying behind in Australia with the team while the rest have headed home.
Ludeke therefore couldn’t but tinker with his lineup for the match against the Waratahs, bringing in a new centre combination of Francois Venter and Johann Sadie while elevating Dawie Steyn to the starting line-up and bringing back Deon Stegmann.
Stegmann’s return comes at an opportune time with Potgieter departing and saves Ludeke from having to make a tough decision regarding the loose trio. The Bulls sure have missed his scavenging on the ground but they have also taken their time to ensure that he is 100% fit before bringing him back into the side with the tough business end of the competition left.
Sadie and Venter team up for the first time since the Sharks game in a combination which is widely seen as the future of the Bulls midfield. While JJ Engelbrecht has done some good work in the midfield in his time there, Ludeke told SuperSport.com he believed it was simply a case of using all your available resources in the right manner.
“It’s a combination of factors, firstly we believe Johan did some good things when he came onto the field on Friday and we feel he needs to be there. Plus that combination has worked well in the past and we felt it was time to give them another chance,” Ludeke said.
The Bulls coach also admitted that Engelbrecht’s versatility -- he can play wing as well -- factored into this thinking.
As for the injuries, Ludeke was nonplussed.
“Its part of the competition and all teams go through a patch like this. The teams that learn how to handle the situation well and adapt the best will come out on top. It’s never nice to have those injuries though. But to be able to bring back Deon Stegmann is a great thing and we’re looking forward to seeing his impact on the match situation.”
In essence Ludeke is simply keeping by the Bulls mantra of “controlling the controlables” and, as such, believes if the Bulls keep on forging the same path they have all season, and tweaking their defence and attack a little each time, they will reap the rewards.
The last time the Bulls won their second match on an overseas tour was in 2007 under Heyneke Meyer in Sydney against the same Waratahs. Ludeke is not a supersticious man, but there are plenty of Bulls fans about who will be hoping history repeats itself.
VODACOM BULLS: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies (capt), CJ Stander, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle , Dawie Steyn .
REPLACEMENTS: Willie Wepener, Rayno Gerber, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché, JJ Engelbrecht.