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Frans Ludeke

Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

The Vodacom Bulls may be on top of the South African Super Rugby conference, but they know there’s a tough road ahead until the end of regular season play.

The Bulls thrashed the Reds 43 / 22 at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, but out of their 8 remaining league matches, only 2 will be at home.

They tackle the Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers away over the next 2 weeks, before facing the Emirates Lions at home.

After that, 4 games in Australasia await against the Blues (15 May), Chiefs (22 May), Brumbies (29 May) and Melbourne Rebels (6 June).

Their last league game is at home against the Toyota Cheetahs on 13 June.

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Burger Odendaal

Burger Odendaal

Hanro Liebenberg

Hanro Liebenberg

Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has some uncomfortable decisions to make as his team head into the next phase of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The use of the squad system has done them well so far with the injuries they have had, but there are still some pressing concerns about the form of certain players, which need to be addressed with a number of young upstarts knocking hard on the door.

At both loose forward and in the midfield, Ludeke will have to make decisions going forward as to who will be the better combination and what will serve his team’s interests better as they edge towards the top of the South African conference.

Saturday’s 31 / 19 win over the Crusaders was a remarkable one not only for the commitment of the players on the field, but for the injuries they suffered before kickoff – losing Lappies Labuschagne and Arno Botha before the game started and Jan Serfontein in the midfield as well.

With a long tour still ahead of them later in the season, the next few weeks will be crucial to secure as many points as possible on South African soil, starting with Saturday’s Jukskei derby against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

While the normal Monday assessment still needs to happen, it seems Labuschagne could be back in contention for his starting spot this weekend, and on the form of Saturday, it would be hard to deny Hanro Liebenberg another go at the opposition given the big performance he gave coming into the side at such late notice.

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BullsVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named the same run-on team from last weekend to face the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday in Bloemfontein in their first away trip in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

The same 15 that ran out in the win over the Cell C Sharks will front up in the Free State Stadium as the Vodacom Bulls looks to build the momentum gathered from the win against the coastal side.

Ludeke only made 1 change to the bench, where Piet van Zyl returns to Bloemfontein to face his former Super Rugby team.

“We finally found the momentum we were looking for in the opening rounds of the competition against the Sharks and managed 4 tries,” Ludeke said in Pretoria on Thursday.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke faces one of the toughest challenges of his career this week – resurrecting the Bulls campaign.

2 Losses at home from 2 outings has piled on the pressure for the Bulls, with the prospect of their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign further coming off the rails if they don’t beat the Cell C Sharks this coming weekend at Loftus.

And given their current form, it is a mighty ask.

All the promise and excitement pre-season for the Bulls with big victories over Saracens and the Toyota Cheetahs has been burnt up by 2 mediocre outings on their own hallowed turf.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls took quite a beating on the weekend against a DHL Stormers side who boasted far fewer Springboks and seasoned players than the Bulls.

Nick Mallett talks about how bad the Bulls really were.

JJ Engelbrecht, cited for a dangerous tackle received an off-field Yellow Card – a stern warning not to repeat the type of incident.

Frans Ludeke, Vodacom Bulls coach portrayed his usual diplomatic self… or is that his usual dim-witted self as some would have us believe, when questioned on the Bulls lacklustre performance on the weekend.

The Bulls also released a fitness report today, which reads like a war-veterans hospital checklist, with 3 more injuries, ahead of the Hurricanes clash on Friday evening. The injuries, specially amongst frontrowers are worrying, very worrying seeing as the Bulls scrums have been degenerating at a rate of knots in 2015… well actually for a number of seasons now… and the Bulls Brains Trust, if one could call it that, seems to have no answers to shore up the Bulls scrumming woes.

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Adriaan Strauss

Adriaan Strauss

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named Adriaan Strauss at hooker when he announced his team to play the DHL Stormers in the opening round of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Strauss, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Vodacom Bulls in 2006 (8 matches), is back in the Pretoria side after a long stint with the Toyota Cheetahs (for whom he played 97 times) and was put straight into the starting team by Ludeke.

The coach also included Vodacom Bulls debutants Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane, but neither are strangers to the competition. Labuschagne played for Toyota Cheetahs in 27 matches (debut 2012) and Nyakane represented the same franchise 42 times (debut 2012).

The rest of the team consists of tried and tested players, with the most experienced captain in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby, Victor Matfield, leading the team onto the field for the 83rd time.
Regular captain Pierre Spies, who made his last appearance in Super Rugby in Round 1 last year against the Sharks in Durban, will play off the bench as he is eased back into action following his long lay-off.

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Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the Bulls believe in him as a player and leader.

There is no doubt the 29-year-old has all the physical attributes to be one of the best No 8’s in the world, even though his contribution sometimes disappoints and he will continue to have his detractors.

However, it is his value to the Bulls’ cause and the team that convinced coach Frans Ludeke to name him skipper ahead of esteemed players like Victor Matfield, Adriaan Strauss and Deon Stegmann.

Speaking ahead of their trip to London this week – for Saturday’s outing against Saracens at Allianz Park – Ludeke explained that Spies was the preferred captain for the past 2 years, a period during which major injuries limited his appearances.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says it’s important for his team to eradicate some “bad habits” as they prepare for this year’s Super Rugby competition.

The Bulls will play two warm-up matches – against the Cheetahs (Polokwane – 24 January) and Saracens (London – 31 January) – before starting their campaign against the DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on 14 February.

“The expectations are big,” Ludeke said. “We made some changes in pre-season an it’s important that we get rid of some bad habits.”

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BullsThree extend contracts as Vodacom Bulls get ready for 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season:

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed that Werner Kruger, Akona Ndungane and Duncan Matthews have extended their contracts and will be available to play for the Vodacom Bulls in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition. Former Springbok winger Ndungane extended his contract till the end of the 2015 Super Rugby competition, while prop Kruger, who made his Springbok debut in 2011, signed on till October 2016.

Outside back Duncan Matthews, who represented the South African Under-20 side in 2014, will stay with the Pretoria franchise till at least October 2016.

BBC’s High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, confirmed that the majority of the provisional Vodacom Bulls squad for next year have signed up till the end of 2016.
“We had a long term plan with some of these younger players which started in 2012 already and it is great to see that they are now blossoming in our structures. Added to some new signings for next season, I think the 2015 Super Rugby season could be an exciting one for our supporters,” Janse van Rensburg said.

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Frans Ludeke

On the right track, Frans Ludeke

Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says they will keep backing their processes in order to get their game plan right.

The Bulls suffered another disappointing loss at the weekend when the Sharks beat them 26-15 at Loftus Versfeld.

Ludeke said they have no excuses for the loss and have to learn to handle the pressure situations better.

“It was especially our decision making which cost us. There were times when we needed to play tactically, but then carried the ball and lost it at the breakdowns instead,” Ludeke said.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has laid it on the line. Saturday’s Absa Currie Cup showdown with neighbours the Xerox Golden Lions is almost a season-decider for his team.

Having won just one out of four games thus far, the Blue Bulls desperately need to reverse their fortunes and while their performance against Western Province was a lot better than their opening three games, they still couldn’t get a win in the game, despite dominating possession.

Ludeke has made it clear that the Bulls need to up their finishing, something that has been a difficult thing for them this season, and they need to take the points on offer when they are in control.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says his side showed encouraging signs in their defeat to Western Province that they are on the right track.

It has been a tough start to the season for the Pretoria side, with just one win from their four games so far, and they were left disappointed again at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday as the unbeaten Cape side beat them for the second time in a few weeks.

However, despite the frustration of coming up short again, Ludeke was upbeat and took some positives from his side’s performance.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

It may have been a close shave but Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke believes their nervous 30-25 victory over the Eastern Province Kings in Pretoria on Saturday was the perfect remedy to their woes.

The Light Blues turned in an unconvincing performance as they came up against a tenacious Kings side that nearly tasted a rare victory at Loftus Versfeld.

Ludeke admitted that the result could easily have favoured the visitors but it was a victory they would take nevertheless.

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Vodacom Blue BullsInjuries, rotational policy and the availability of players from suspension all played a role in Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke’s decision to make seven changes to his starting team to face the EP Kings at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

This will be the Vodacom Blue Bulls first home match in the Absa Currie Cup following two away defeats against the Golden Lions and Western Province.

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Frans Ludeke

Coach under siege: Frans Ludeke

Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named fit-again flank Jacques du Plessis in his starting line-up to face DHL Western Province at DHL Newlands on Saturday.

This round two match in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division will see two new faces in the Blue Bulls starting pack that lost their season opener against the Xerox Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.

Du Plessis comes in at flank after recovering from a broken jaw sustained in a pre-season match, with Jono Ross moving to no 8 and replacing Jacques Engelbrecht, who moves to the bench with Wiaan Liebenberg dropping out of the match 22.

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Derick Minnie

“Cheers vir eers!” Derick Minnie op pad vorentoe Saterdag teen die Bloubulle op Ellispark.

Niemand wil dit hard sê nie, maar almal weet dit: Suid-Afrikaanse rugby is in die #2%$.

Vir diegene wat onlangs uit ’n diep slaap uit ontwaak het, hier is die feite: Net een Suid-Afrikaanse span kon dit tot in ’n Super Rugby semi-finaal maak. En daar het hulle ook in die pomp geduik. Die ander klomp – die Bulle, Stormers, Leeus en Cheetahs het redelik swak gedoen.

Hoe kan ’n land soos Suid-Afrika, wat meer spelers as Nieu-Seeland en Australië saam het, so sleg uit die bus uit bliksem?

Om daardie vraag te beantwoord, moet ons teruggaan tot ons terugkeer tot internasionale rugby in 1992.

Dan sal ons sien dat ons intussen nooit pasaangeërs was nie. Nie met taktiek nie en nie met afrigting nie.

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Panic StationThe Vodacom Blue Bulls are already in crisis mode – and it’s only the first round of the Absa Currie Cup season.

Coach Frans Ludeke called in the players to Loftus Versfeld on Sunday night for an emergency meeting – following their humiliating 41-13 opening loss to the Xerox Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday – where players were read the riot act.

Following a disappointing Vodacom Super Rugby season, and this start to a much-vaunted Currie Cup campaign, the players were told to either shape up or ship out as Ludeke vented his anger after the loss.

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Marnitz Boshoff

Marnitz Boshoff

The Golden Lions’ comprehensive 41-13 defeat of the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday could prove costly after star flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff left the field with an arm injury.

“We are a bit concerned but we don’t want to jump to conclusions before he’s had his scans,” Lions coach Johan Ackermann said after the match.

“Jaco van der Walt (replacement) is a talented player but obviously Marnitz is also a match winner and it will be a big loss if he is out.”

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

As the well-worn idiom goes: ‘The tallest trees catch the most wind.’ In the case of Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, that has come in the form of harsh criticism.

While there was some critique over his ‘management’ of veteran Victor Matfield and numerous barbs over his backline choices, it was the selection of his loose forwards that attracted the most fiendish and frightful comments.

The Bulls were particularly vulnerable at the breakdowns, where the absence of a specialist openside flank – in the wake of injuries to Deon Stegmann and Dewald Potgieter – cost them dearly.

Ludeke persisted with Jono Ross, who by his own admission is more suitable on the blindside or at No 8.

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

BullsBrumbiesThe Bulls won’t have revenge on their minds when they face the Brumbies in a Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.

The Brumbies broke the Bulls hearts when they beat the men from Pretoria 26-23 in last year’s semi-final at Loftus, with centre Tevita Kuridrani’s late try sealing the win for the men from Canberra.

While it would be important to have a look at what cost them in that game, coach Frans Ludeke said revenge would not be on their minds.

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Frans LudekeBullsVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke admits he will be again looking for reasons why his side dominated the possession stakes against the Highlanders and didn’t get the reward.

The Bulls had more than enough ball in their Vodacom Super Rugby game on Friday but defensive lapses and a lack of execution cost them as they went down 27-20 in Dunedin.

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BullsFrans LudekeThe Vodacom Bulls may be putting a brave face on their poor start to the Vodacom Super Rugby season, but is clear that there are glaring problems in the team at the moment that need to be sorted out.

The alarm bells may not be ringing in coach Frans Ludeke’s ears after two losses in as many games, but they certainly are loud as the team struggle to find their feet after losing a mass amount of players last season.

To expect the Bulls to face such a mass exodus – much of it their own doing – and not suffer much of a setback is too much. Add to that the loss of Arno Botha and captain Pierre Spies to injury and the problems seem bigger.

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BullsFrans LudekeBulls coach Frans Ludeke has identified three areas of concern as they prepare for their Super Rugby opener against the Sharks in Durban on 15 February.

The Bulls lost a pre-season match in Polokwane 26 / 19 to the Stormers last weekend and according to Ludeke they must improve their scrums, tactical kicking and work ethic before the season-proper starts.

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BullsAs the Super Rugby season draws nearer, the teams will be trying to get their injury lists as short as possible, to go into Super Rugby with real war machines.

At the Bulls it was last weak feared and speculated that the Bulls would go into the Stormers warm-up with 3 key players not available. That fear is now eased with the news that only one player, Morné Mellet, won’t be ready to play on the weekend.

The Bulls also expressed their confidence in their all-round props after last year’s Super Rugby season saw them struggle in the scrums at times.

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Super RugbyIn December 2013 and January 2014 we looked at Squad Contenders in the SA Super Rugby participating franchises. This tiime we will focus on the SA Conference Coaches for Super Rugby 2014.

We’ll have a look at all the head coaches and briefly their assistant staff, for the various South African Super Rugby franchises.

We look at their history and discuss their coaching styles and speculate about what can be expected.

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BullsThis article is written by a worried Bulls supporter. The heading could just as well read “Wake up Frans Ludeke” or “Frans fall on your sword please and save us this embarrassment”.

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