Super Rugby 2013 Preview 7: The Bulls

bullsThe Bulls had a fairly smooth off-season with CJ Stander’s move to Munster being their only significant loss. Luckily, Morné Steyn and Juandré Kruger were still under contract and will only leave for France at the end of the 2013 season. Question is, will they be able to focus on the job at hand – considering the pressure they’ll be put under by the newcomers – or will it be a case of one foot on the plane?

On paper, the team looks strong and I get the feeling that they recruited with much more than 2013 on their mind. For once the Bulls didn’t try to snatch every bit of talent that shone for the other South African franchises, but contracted several very young players practically off the school benches.

With the squad already packed with Springboks and Wynand Olivier back from Japan, the Bulls further bolstered their team by borrowing Lionel Mapoe and Callie Visagie from the Lions. They have a host of young players that exhibited some serious skills during the IRB Junior World Championship, namely Paul Willemse, William Small-Smith and the very talented Jan Serfontein – player of the tournament. On top of that, they also signed young Western Province fly-half Handré Pollard.

Somewhat worrying is their long list of injuries that could keep a few key players on the sideline for the first few weeks. Wilhelm Steenkamp will definitely miss the start due to a shoulder injury and recently contracted Cheetahs prop Marcel van der Merwe will be out for about 4 months.

I was quite surprised by the young team named to play the Lions in their warm-up match. In my opinion, it was a toss-up between underestimating the opponent and being careful not to risk further injuries to the core of the squad. And I hate to admit this, but they looked really good; obviously the youngsters had something to proove.

Victor Matfield has been promoted to Forwards and Attack Coach and they pulled in Derrick Hougaard as Skills and Kicking Coach.

Captain Pierre Spies says that his broken thumb was a blessing in disguise that happened at just the right moment. He says he now has more perspective and after a decent rest, he feels recharged and ready to show the world that he still has what it takes to play and lead at this level.

Spies also hinted that the Bulls made some minor adjustments to their game – does this actually mean we’ll see more running and less kicking? If the match against the Lions is anything to go by, it sure seems like it finally dawned on Frans Ludeke that it was time to do something about their outdated style.

Ludeke did an outstanding job to rebuild his squad and management after all the losses they suffered in 2012 and although they never looked like winning the cup, they did surprise many by holding up much better than expected.

All that said, and even being as impressed as I was with their performance against the Lions, I just don’t see them doing the same this year. I’m looking at their previous season in the same light as total defiance of the underdog, and I think this season will lay bare the true effect all these big changes had on them.

My prediction for the Bulls is 9th place.

by Jackie Smit

8 thoughts on “Super Rugby 2013 Preview 7: The Bulls

  1. No matter how much discussion on individual matches rugby will
    never rival soccer as an international sport whilst the game itself is
    so flawed. The fact that the ball is in play for less than a quarter
    of match time speaks for itself. There are far too many petty
    regulations which constantly impede flow of play for reasons which the
    crowd invariably cannot see or understand, and which so often mean the
    game is won on negative scoring (penalties) rather than through tries.
    The outcome often therefore depends simply on whichever team has the
    best goal kicker. Let’s find a way to stop scrum collapses, and get rid of all the petty regulations (especially the accidental knock-on, which time and again stops a promising flow of play because of an inconsequential fumble which usually disadvantages the attacker anyway). It’s time for influential commentators and journalists to take the wider view and start campaigning against entrenched views.

  2. on all these reviews you say how good you think the teams are gonna be and then go and say that they won’t be any good!

  3. Hi Charlie, I think the second to last paragraph sums it up, I highlight the individual strengths they have, but rugby is a team effort, so if the entire team doesn’t sync and play well, they cannot expect good results. Why don’t you tell me what you think instead?

  4. I think the column is accurate to a certain extent. The Bulls doesn’t have the dominant pack that they use to but they aren’t completely of the pace. Their best team will most probably have 6-7 Boks in the pack and 4-5 Boks in the backline. As a unit they shouldn’t do to badly. Except for a distinct weakness in the front row this team looks pretty good and I would put them a little better than 9th. 5 to 7 somewhere.

  5. Hi Col, thanks for the feedback.

    I would’ve like to have seen the match between the Bulls and Cheetahs myself in order to speak my own mind. It is difficult to gather from the few reports out there whether the Bulls played exceptionally well or whether the Cheetahs had a very ordinary day at the office.

    The Bulls played a really good game against the Lions which boasted a very young and energetic side. This weekend saw many of the stalwarts back and it appears if all of them had a good game. I’m glad Morné seems to be back in form, Hougi apparently had a blinder, so glad he is showing that he belongs on scrumhalf. From what I read Spies and the other loosies ran with strength and defended very well.

    The Cheetahs had such a good game against the Stormers, but then followed it up with a poor performance this weekend. Very sad indeed. I have high hopes for the Cheetahs, but they need to have their heads in the game for consecutive matches. A great win here and there will not suffice.

    Can’t wait for the season to actually start!

  6. Have to agree with you there. Can’t wait for Super Rugby to begin. There is always enough surprises and I don’t think this year will be any different. Good luck to all the teams and a specially the SA teams. I think we have a fantastic chance to see a SA winner this year.

  7. I don’t think anybody is really writing them off at this stage, Joffey, we’re just not convinced that they’ll be able to stand their ground as well as they did last year. But they’ll not be a team to take on lightly, that’s very apparent from their warm-up matches.

    This at the end of the day, is one person’s view of things, and it’s only serves to make for interesting debate.

    I have a question for you. Why do Bulls supporters only care make adamant and disagreeing statement, but rarely offer any supporting facts or opinions. Like why do you think they have a chance of walking away with the crown?

Comments are closed.