The Bulls have to beat the Rebels in Melbourne this morning to remain in SuperRugby contention and they are also playing for the future of their coach, Frans Ludeke.
This is not only the Bulls’ last match on tour but it is also the final game before Ludeke faces the board back at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, the day before they host the Cheetahs. They will be out of contention for the playoffs by then, however, if they don’t beat the Rebels and end their 10-match losing run overseas. There are already noises emanating from Pretoria that Ludeke will be relieved of his duties unless his team stages a dramatic turnaround.
To do that, they are going to have to show much greater intensity in the collisions than they did in the lame display against the Brumbies last weekend.
“The Rebels are obviously a much-improved side, they beat the Crusaders away and the Chiefs. They have the most ball-carries and the best retention percentage, so they keep the ball and hold on to it. They have a strong set-piece, most of their tries come from the lineout, and they wear you down,” Ludeke said.
“We will have to squeeze turnovers, they concede a lot and we will have to make sure we force them with a good defensive line and not wasting people at the breakdown. The Rebels aren’t scared to take risks, they throw the ball around, so if we work hard in defence then we will get opportunities.”
The Rebels were poor in losing to a mediocre Sharks side last weekend in Durban and are now out of playoffs contention, but they were still talking a good game this week.
“I feel like there’s a lot riding on these last two weeks. Just because there’s only two games left, it doesn’t mean we can’t send a message about next year.
“We didn’t take our opportunities against the Sharks, for whatever reason, and this time we need to play smarter. We’re pretty confident of what we’re going to get presented with this week, so it’s another huge opportunity for us.
“The Bulls forward pack will be awesome; they’re so big so we’re really going to have to shut them down with two-man tackles. If we can shut them down that will take away a lot of their forward momentum,” lock Luke Jones said.