Bulls

Bulls get ‘mental’ coaching for semi-final

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Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer required the equivalent of a degree in psychology last week to get his team to believe in their ability to achieve a record victory margin against the Reds, but he will have to do a lot more “mental” coaching this week.

Speaking as his team stepped up their preparations for the Super 14 semi-final showdown against the defending champion Crusaders, at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday, Meyer said the preparations this week will again focus on the mental aspects more than the physical side of the game.

It is a well-recorded fact how Meyer ‘gee-ed up’ his team last week to convince them a 72-point victory margin over the Reds, which would secure them a home semi-final, was possible. The record books will say the Bulls recorded a record 89-point (92-3) victory.

What the statistics won’t tell you is how the Bulls approached last weeks game and how they will prepare this week to face the most successful team in Super Rugby history.

Meyer, speaking to the website, said the hard, physical work has already been done.

“It will be no difference from the mental side of preparations this week,” Meyer said.

“The coaching [physical preparation] was done in the off season and through the year, so it will again be about the mental build-up,” he added.

Meyer said the reason why his team is able to focus on the metal aspects and not scamper around to tweak their game, was because the hard work was done long before the season started.

“When the other guys were having a holiday, we worked right up to December 21/22. All the physical work has been done already,” he said of the hard yards his team has put in during the pre-season and throughout the regular season.

He feels that the play-offs are as much about the mental side as the physical aspects of the game, especially since it is the six-time champion Crusaders they are facing.

“The Crusaders are the defending champions and is a team that is not easily beaten,” Meyer said.

“They’ve shown some really good form this year and the biggest challenge this week will be the mental preparations,” he added.

The Crusaders may have a few “mental” scars after their defeats to the Brumbies and Chiefs in the past fortnight – which saw them drop from first to third on the standings – but Meyer feels they have the ability to bounce back.

“They’ve been there before [having to bounce back from a couple of defeats] and they will come with everything they’ve got,” Meyer said of the Crusaders.

“They are a champion team and it will be a typical semi-final,” he said, pointing out that in all play-off matches it is about the team that uses it’s opportunities and handle the pressure best.

“We’ll have to show the best discipline and use every opportunity that comes our way.

“The top four teams [Sharks, Bulls, Crusaders and Blues – the semi-finalists] are so close to each other and it can go any way.”

Meyer said even though it is a play-off match and things like bonus-points don’t matter, it is vital for his team to take a positive approach into the game, like they’ve done the last four weeks – in which they’ve scored 29 tries and conceded just four.

The Bulls are now second on the Super 14 try-scoring list with 45, just two behind the Crusaders in first place. At an average of about three-and-half tries per game these two teams do have the ability to not only entertain, but do so with positive rugby.

“We have to go out and score tries. That is how we’ll approach it.

“Yes, on the day anything can happen, but we have to go out in a positive frame of mind and play like we’ve played the last four games.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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