Ludeke: Bulls could surprise

Getty Images     10 Mar 2013     Getty Images

The 2010 Investec Super Rugby champions have a reputation for intimidating and beating teams into submission while Springbok points machine Morne Steyn lands the heaviest blows through his immaculate goal-kicking.

It's a predictable style that has won the franchise three Super Rugby titles since 2007 and presents a new challenge for Sir John Kirwan's men, who will face their biggest challenge yet at Eden Park.

But Bulls coach Frans Ludeke warned Kirwan and his illustrious coaching panel that it would not be wise to simply label his side as one-dimensional.

"Obviously the Blues would have had a good look at us so we need to play an all-round game because you can get diffused in areas that you are strong in," Ludeke told Sportal at training this week.

He did, however, admit that he wants his players to stick to the 'structures' that led them to two first-up wins over the Stormers and the Force.

He also believes their success against the Blues will hinge on whether they can get their 'strengths into the game.'

The formula is simple and is usually effective. It involves low-risk tactics that have seen them concede the least amount of turnovers (34) after three rounds.

Led up-field by the intelligent kicking of Steyn, the Bulls forwards are the biggest exponents of the rolling maul and lead the competition with 111 metres gained.

Trailing the Force by four points, the Bulls needed a clutch play with 10 minutes remaining. And it was another eight-man drive that got the result as Jean Cook crashed over the line.

However, the 36-26 scare at Loftus Versfeld last week has Ludeke thinking more about his plan B.

"You must have some alternatives to make sure that you get momentum," he said.

"You [must] get into the right areas and create opportunities from broken play."

Captain Pierre Spies would also like to see more of the same play that created a scintillating try for wing Sampie Mastriet early in the second half.

"Obviously we have to see how the game plays out but we also want to spread the ball a little bit and give it some air and see if we can score some tries," said the Springbok No 8.

Asked whether the Blues' ability to counter attack would deter them from kicking in the open field Spies replied: "I don't think so.

"The important thing is the execution. So if we do kick it's important that we kick well, if you don't you're going to be put under pressure by a lethal counter attack."

The Blues' outside backs have impressed in wins against the Hurricanes and the Crusaders. Perhaps none more so than wing Frank Halai, who has managed four tries already in his debut season.

France-bound centre Rene Ranger has been the catalyst for a number of scoring drives and is only getting better at breaking opposition defences, either through raw power or off-loading to support.

However, those occurrences may be a little less frequent this week.

Having competed 84 percent of their tackles the Bulls are the second most efficient defenders of the 15 teams.

Still, Ludeke is not underestimating the threat that the Blues pose.

"That's the great challenge for us this week - as soon as they get the ball on the front foot that's where it's tough to make one-on-one tackles because there's space available," he said.

"They have players that have the ability to get the ball away in contact.

"In defence you must be smart; it's about [having] a big work rate to stop it."

Minor injuries to wing Francois Hougard and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle limited their participation at training but Ludeke was confident both would be cleared to play.

The Bulls have never experienced victory at Eden Park and Spies believes the incentive of breaking the drought will have his men primed for a thrilling contest.

"It will be a great day and obviously that's some nice motivation for us but it's going to be a difficult task."