If the Bulls have a liability, it’s the depth of their forwards. Insanity, you scream? Not according to coach Heyneke Meyer.
Meyer told keo.co.za that he believes his back resources are now superior to those upfront, an incredible reversal after years of being a side synonomous with brutal forward play.
“Where we lack this this year, and people won’t believe me, is in the forwards,” Meyer admitted. “In the past a large portion of our pack has been selected for the Boks, and so we’ve had an entire second pack of similar quality who’ve had to do the job for us. If you look now, though, we’ve lost Kees Lensing, we’ve lost Danie Coetzee, we’ve lost Anton Leonard, we’ve lost Warren Brosnihan. If you add the injured Gurthro Steenkamp, Richard Bands and Victor [Matfield] to that, there’s a whole pack that is out.
“We do have brilliant depth in terms of our youngsters, but some of these guys haven’t played Currie Cup yet. Guys like Pierre Spies (retreaded as an eighthman) and Cliffie Milton will come through strongly but at the moment we are at a transition stage in the forwards. In contrast, we now have real quality in every position in our backs.”
Meyer believes that those expecting the Bulls to be automatic contenders for glory are slightly misguided, emphasising the toughness of the extended Super 14 and the high turnover in players his squad has absorbed.
“People don’t realise how tough this competition is. It is the toughest rugby competition in the world, and depth is vital. If you want to win the competition you have to have almost a full international side, like the Crusaders and Waratahs have. We’re not there yet, but if we keep our feet on the ground and take it game by game, hopefully we’ll have a good season.”
Critical to the Bulls’ hopes will be Derick Hougaard and Morne Steyn. Meyer confirmed to keo.co.za that both are guaranteed starting game time, and that he backs them both to dictate games even if the forward dominance is not as evident as in the previous few seasons.
“You are going to break youngsters if you play them week-in and week-out. we will play them in blocks, maybe for three or so consecutive games. You can’t rotate them every week because then it is very difficult for them to settle and build up any sort of momentum,” Meyer explained.
“Morne and Derick are both youngsters and I believe both will play for South Africa in the future. We are happy to have two great players here. Some people see that as a negative, but I think it is a fantastic positive. We are going to need different players for different conditions, especially at 10. They have very important roles this season.”