Bulls brace for ‘complete’ Chiefs
22 May 2012
Frans Ludeke says the Chiefs have developed their game to the point where they are better equipped than most to hurt teams in numerous ways.
The Bulls face the New Zealand conference leaders in Hamilton on Friday and are acutely aware of the all-round threat they pose. The Chiefs’ rise from 10th-placed finishers in 2011 to being among the favourites to win the title this season has been notable. Gone is the cavalier outfit who capitulated against teams adept at pinning them in their territory and pressuring them into errors through dominant defence. Ludeke was lavish in his praise of their development.
‘They used to be vulnerable in a number of areas but now they’ve become one of the most complete sides in the tournament,’ Ludeke told keo.co.za.
‘Their forward play, particularly at set pieces, has improved immeasurably. But they haven’t lost the ability to punish you when their backline runs the ball from general play and especially from broken field.
‘Add to that a tactical kicking game that gives them another attacking dimension and a defensive system that has worked very well and is hard to break down, and you’ve got a very difficult team to play against.’
The Bulls’ defeat in Dunedin against the Highlanders and the Stormers’ victory at Newlands transformed the complexion of their campaign after a promising start to their tour. It meant they surrendered the top spot in the conference and the overall log to their great rivals and defeat in Hamilton would further undermine their drive for a home play-off. Ludeke said he stressed the importance of victory to his players, who needed no motivation.
‘This is by miles our most important game of the competition if you look at it in the context of what winning or losing could mean for our challenge,’ Ludeke said. ‘The Stormers have control of their own destiny and if they keep winning they’ll get that important home play-off.
‘We’ve been in similar positions in the past but then we could take confidence from the experience we had in our ranks. Now we’ve got a younger side who must show similar character. I was impressed by how we responded against the Waratahs two weeks ago. They dominated the game but we came through at the end.
We took a lot away from that match in terms of building a strength of character in some of the less experienced players. It nearly happened again for us against the Highlanders and but for some impatient and inaccurate play late in the game, we could have stolen that one as well.
‘That character was a hallmark of the Bulls sides of recent years and this group will have to show that against a team that will test them to the limits of their ability – tactically, physically and mentally.’
By Ryan Vrede