Which Bulls player has impressed the most this year?
Bakkies Botha
Victor Matfield
Bryan Habana
Pedrie Wannenburg
Derick Hougaard
Wynand Olivier

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Coach Report - the Super 14 season ahead
There is no doubt in my mind that the Vodacom Super 14 will be the toughest competition in the history of rugby.

Because of the extra two teams, the season has started two weeks earlier and already the extra strain on the players and coaches is visible, with the warm-up matches starting in the second week of January. It is therefore no surprise that most of the teams are struggling with injuries.

This competition will definitely sort the men from the mice and any team that wishes to be successful must excel in five key areas.

Firstly and by far the most importantly, the side must have depth. Two quality players in each position is a must, as injuries and fatigue will definitely play a role.

In contrast to previous seasons, the Bulls can field two quality backlines, but it is amongst the forwards where our depth will be severely tested, especially as we are missing more than one pack of players.

At loose head, Kees Lensing has gone overseas and Gurthrö Steenkamp will miss the most of the season. At hooker, Danie Coetzee has left and Gary Botha and Adriaan Strauss are battling injuries. At tight head, Richard Bands and Andries Human are on the comeback trail, while Victor Matfield is also not match ready and at loose forward we have lost Anton Leonard and Warren Brosnihan.

On the plus side, we have contracted some great and exciting youngsters and a lot will depend on the way they rise to the challenge. They are great prospects and we are definitely not using our injury list as an excuse.

I think the extra sides in the competition will affect the performances of both ourselves and Australia, as it will test our depth, while the New Zealand sides will remain the same. The New Zealanders have the benefit of the influx of great players from the islands, while South Africa’s depth is decreasing with players going overseas. Right now, you could probably pick two sides from Springboks playing abroad.

The second key to success is experience. If you look at sides like the Crusaders or Waratahs, you are playing against 14 or 15 international players, so you are basically playing a test, which explains the success of those sides.

A few years ago, the Stormers fielded a side that consisted almost solely of Springboks, but right now, there is no South African side who can stake claim to that. Inexperience might yet prove to be the downfall for most of the South African sides.

Thirdly, a side cannot focus on winning only their home games anymore. Success in away games will prove vital if a side is to qualify for a semi-final. A home semi-final is crucial if a team is to qualify for the final, especially for a South African side.

The fact that we have an extra home game will help our cause, but we still need to do well in the away fixtures. The impact of travelling was demonstrated last year when the Brumbies had to play four away games in a row for the first time in their history and lost all four.

If a side cannot claim the victory, it must at least make certain that it gets a bonus point. With two extra games, bonus points are going to play an even more important role. If you can secure a bonus point in all 13 round robin games, it is almost as good as three victories.

The fourth factor is strength of character. Somewhere in the tournament each side will face a crisis, and the way that crisis is dealt with, will determine the side’s fate. Last year, our early season losses placed immense pressure on us, but the way the side came back to qualify for the playoffs where many other sides would have crumbled, revealed its character.

This year, our early crisis is the injury list. The new players must now display the mental toughness to get through the crisis.

The last key component is leadership. When England won the World Cup, nine of the players in the side were captains of their Premiership clubs. I sometimes feel that South African sides could do more to produce leaders. Leadership in a squad is essential, especially when the aforementioned crises materialise.

We are in the unfortunate position that we have lost two excellent leaders in Anton Leonard and Ettienne Botha, and that our current captains elect, Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Gary Botha are all struggling with injuries, but this is an excellent opportunity for the youngsters in the squad to put up their hands.

I have always stressed that I pick players on character and there is no doubt in my mind that the youngsters in the squad will rise to the challenge.

This year, I also foresee a general change to the game plan, with a heavier emphasis on defence. The Crusaders were different from the other successful sides in that they scored many tries, but also gave away quite a few. The other two sides in the top three, the Bulls and the Waratahs, based their success on a strong defence.

Kicking will also be crucial and a kicker who averages at least a 75% success rate is essential. Attack will of course still be essential and the side that can attack the best in broken play is likely to do extremely well.

There has been a lot of talk about the draw, but the best route to success is to approach the tournament one game at a time. If a draw favours you in one area, it is sure to disadvantage you in another. Easy away games, for instance, means difficult home games, where the pressure will be on the home side to win. Starting at home means playing against sides that are still fresh, while touring first might result in a few losses and more pressure at home later. It is therefore better to focus on the task at hand instead of the draw.

Finally, I would like to thank our supporters for the support we received last year and our unbeaten run at Loftus Versfeld proves just what an impact the fans have. We would love to make you proud this year and produce a great season.

Other articles by Heyneke Meyer
  • Team building our goal in Georgia
  • We need to be a unit
  • Building a new era
  • Bulls will be stronger

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    Venue: Pretoria
    Date: 5 May Time: 19:10
    Full fixtures

    Vodacom Bulls1133
    Vodacom Stormers1122
    Vodacom Cheetahs1122
    Western Force117
    Full log

    29 April
    Stormers 28 - 17 Crusaders
    Bulls 34 - 27 Sharks
    Cheetahs 33 - 34 Blues
    Brumbies 36 - 0 Reds
    Hurricanes 35 - 10 Chiefs
    28 April
    Cats 34 - 34 Force
    Full results

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