The impact of record-breaking retired Springbok Victor Matfield as a coach is already being felt by the Bulls.
Matfield – who last year served as a line-out consultant in an advisory capacity at Loftus Versfeld – was appointed the forwards and attack coach for the franchise this season.
The 35-year-old, who led the Bulls to all three of their Super Rugby titles, is rated as “phenomenal” by head coach Frans Ludeke.
“It is great to have him back in the inner circle of the team, where the things are happening,” Ludeke told this website in an interview ahead of the Bulls’ first pre-season match – the Gauteng Challenge encounter with the Lions at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday.
“It may be in a different capacity, but he is making a very big impact – the players are enjoying having him here.
“His knowledge is phenomenal and he comes across very strongly as a coach.
“He is a great teacher and his sessions are very interesting – there are lots of game-related things.”
Ludeke said one of the advantages of Matfield the coach is that he played for such a long time and worked under many coaches.
“He has a great feel for how to put a [training] session together,” Ludeke said, adding: “There is no doubt he is making a huge impact.”
Matfield, who retired from playing after the 2011 World Cup, featured in 110 Tests for South Africa – bettered only by John Smit’s 111 internationals.
* Meanwhile the Bulls head coach, Ludeke, said a number of frontline players will not feature in the Orlando showdown.
Players like Francois Venter, Zane Kirchner, Werner Kruger and Callie Visagie all suffering from minor strains.
Venter (groin), Kirchner (back), Kruger (back) and Visagie (hamstring) will miss the clash – as will Tony Jantjies (compassionate leave after the death of his father), Wilhelm Steenkamp (AC joint, five weeks), Marcel van der Merwe (knee rehab, four months), Dean Greyling (foot, three weeks) and Basil Short (AC joint, two weeks).
Grant Hattingh (ankle), Akona Ndungane (groin), Wiaan Liebenberg (hamstring), Dewald Potgieter (back) and Louis Fouchè (ankle) has been declared fit – although the two loose forwards, Liebenberg and Potgieter, will only train on Tuesday.
Ludeke said he will field two different line-ups in the pre-season matches against the Lions (this week) and the Cheetahs (in Polokwane next week).
Veteran midfielder Wynand Olivier will also not be considered for selection this week, although he returned from his stint in Japan without injury.