Bulls

Bulls operating at ‘only’ 25 per cent

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It is a frightening thought, very frightening indeed! The Bulls, having just put 92 points past the Reds, are playing at only 20 to 25 percent of their true potential.

No, this is not the ramblings of some lunatic supporter or an overzealous reporter.

It is the view of the Bulls’ backline coach, Australian import Todd Louden.

Speaking ahead of the Super 14 semi-final showdown with the Crusaders in Pretoria on Saturday, Louden said that he feels the Bulls could become the best attacking team in the world.

It is a dramatic turnaround for a team that was not so long ago – in fact still midway through the 2007 version of the Super 14 – regarded as too one-dimensional and predictable to challenge for even the play-offs.

From a team that scored just 16 tries in the first nine rounds, to a team that scored 29 tries in the last four weeks. And even without the 13-try rout against the Reds last week, the Bulls still average more than five tries a game in this period.

“We’re seeing some improvement now, but it is just the beginning for us – it is a long-term approach and this is only just the start,” Louden said, when quizzed on the Bulls’ newfound try-scoring form.

So how far up the road are the Bulls in terms of Louden’s goals for them?

“Only 20 to 25 percent,” he said. “That’s the exciting thing.

“Technically the discipline and the structure is there to already put such a points score up,” he said of the 92-3 hammering of the Reds.

“Where can we go? I think one of the biggest things that is starting to change is our mindset, it’s the way that we think about rugby, it’s the way that we attack and once that’s opened up then anything is possible.

“South Africa has the best players and the best athletes in the world, it is just a matter of changing our mindset on certain things and improving our skill levels so that we can actually execute the way that we are starting to think.

“Anything is possible and I believe that going forward we should aim to be the best attacking side in the world.”

Louden suggested that the Australians’ obsession with Rugby League’s structured approach to the game, which for many years brought teams like the Brumbies and the Wallabies success on the international stage, had also caught on in many other parts of the world.

The result is an “over-structured” game in which defence is dominant and attack has been neglected.

A team like the Bulls have the talent to change that. It is just a matter of getting them to realise their true potential.

“That is it, exactly,” he said of where it he heading with the Bulls.

“The defensive systems around the world has improved, but the attacking systems hasn’t and the attacking mindset hasn’t.

“Because so many coaches around the world has concentrated purely on structured set plays … like phases and sequence plays, they have neglected the skills component to give the players the ability to try different things.

“That’s why we [at the Bulls] have focussed on building foundations and that’s why I’m excited. This year is about building a foundation and changing the mindset.

“In the next couple of years we’ll build on that foundation so that there’s a more total attack.”

He acknowledged that the Australian obsession with League had resulted in the game becoming so predictable and easy to defend against.

“We’ve become over-structured and we’ve put parameters on attack. That very much comes from Rugby League. The West Tigers in 2005 changed the boundaries there [in Australian Rugby League] and won the Grand Final.

“Teams in Australia have followed that [League] style and it needs to be broken down again. The Brumbies are very structured and a lot of teams around the world followed that example and took that as their cue and we’ve become over-structured without the necessary skills.”

He said the Bulls are now trying to move away from the over-emphasis on a structured approach, without discarding their natural strengths.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here. We’ve got a lot of strengths in the team and we need to skill those strengths up, also evolving a game plan around that. Then those players can strengthen the team.”

But don’t expect the Bulls now to suddenly cut lose and play a carefree, expansive, throw-the-ball-around basketball type game.

In fact don’t even expect much change when they face the Crusaders at Loftus on Saturday.

As Louden said, this is not something that will change overnight.

“It’s a long process and whilst I can understand and see people getting excited, the best [of this Bulls team] is yet to come.

“That’s not being arrogant or overconfident – it is just that I know where this team is and is not. The change in mindset is the biggest thing.”

Louden, who was named the New South Wales Rugby Union’s premiership coach of the year in 2006, said there will only be “slight” adjustments to the Bulls’ approach for Saturday’s encounter with the Crusaders.

“This is finals rugby now and it doesn’t matter how you win, you must just win. We will do everything to ensure that we win.

“We have got to play to our strengths and obviously try to attack some of their weaknesses.

“At the end of the day we’ve got to attack and that’s the message that has come through – in defence and attack, we have to attack.

“There will be adjustments, but we got to do what we do well.”

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital 

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