A difficult 2013 saw the Bulls finish in ninth place, one win off the playoffs, while their Currie Cup campaign ended in the semi-finals against eventual champions Western Province.
Ludeke said yesterday that a review of the season had provided a clear indication that the Bulls needed to change their game plan.
“Since 2009, the team that has scored the most tries in the competition has won SuperRugby, so we clearly need to have a new shape to our play, we need to score more tries. Bonus points are also crucial in getting you that home semi-final,” Ludeke told The Citizen.
The exciting Handre Pollard will spearhead that effort from flyhalf and the Bulls have plenty of depth in midfield with Jan Serfontein, JJ Engelbrecht, Burger Odendaal (the find of the Currie Cup) and William Small-Smith, and two experienced wings in Akona Ndungane and Bjorn Basson.
Jesse Kriel is an exciting young talent at fullback, where he will be competing with Ulrich Beyers and Jurgen Visser for the number 15 jersey.
Although the emphasis will be on scoring more tries, Ludeke said they will continue to use their traditional strengths of powerful ball-carrying forwards to lay the platform and the coach can call on an all-Springbok pack in Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss and Dean Greyling.
SuperRugby places a massive burden on the players, however, so there is a premium on having depth so players can be rotated and the Bulls seem well-placed in this regard with players such as Trevor Nyakane, Bandise Maku, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Lappies Labuschagne, Jacques du Plessis and Jacques Engelbrecht.
With the ball in play for an average of more than 40 minutes in the last three years of SuperRugby, Ludeke also said he will be focusing on improving the players’ conditioning and skills to deal with the faster-paced game.
The Bulls have come through a difficult period in which they have lost 50 players in five years, but Ludeke believes the new crop of players have begun to settle. They have tremendous potential at Loftus Versfeld and the Bulls have shown glimpses of that in being unbeaten at home in the 2013 SuperRugby competition.
“We have been competitive, but we haven’t been consistent. We won everything at home, but we lost all our away matches,” Ludeke said. “We made too many crucial errors at crucial times. We would dominate possession and play in the right areas, but make a mistake and the opposition would score from 70 metres out.”
To be fair to Ludeke, 2013 was a year in which he had to rebuild the team once again and several inexperienced players were tossed into the furnace. To expect total consistency and error-free rugby from such players is unrealistic in a tournament as demanding as SuperRugby.
But with a more settled squad and a year’s more experience, Ludeke is looking forward to better execution from his players next year.
SuperRugby training squad
Backs: Jesse Kriel, Duncan Matthews, Warrick Gelant, Jurgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, Travis Ismaiel, Bjorn Basson, Jamba Ulengo, JJ Engelbrecht, William Small-Smith, Dries Swanepoel, Jan Serfontein, Ulrich Beyers, Dan Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Handre Pollard, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Tian Schoeman, Kobus Marais, Francois Hougaard, Piet van Zyl, Rudy Paige, Ivan van Zyl, Carlo Engelbrecht.
Forwards: Pierre Spies, Hanro Liebenberg, Arno Botha, Jacques du Plessis, Nardus van der Walt, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Jacques Engelbrecht, Deon Stegmann, Lappies Labuschagne, Roelof Smit, Victor Matfield, Grant Hattingh, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Flip van der Merwe, Irne Herbst, Jason Jenkins, Werner Kruger, Marcel van der Merwe, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Hencus van Wyk, Basil Short, Adriaan Strauss, Bandise Maku, Callie Visagie, Jaco Visagie, Arno van Wyk, Dean Greyling, Morne Mellett, Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Schoeman.