Gary Boshoff

Bulls shock with Ludeke

2007-12-03 11:01

Gary Boshoff

I am sure that for many the recent appointment of Frans Ludeke as the Bulls' new Super 14 coach came as a big surprise.

Last year Ludeke was relieved from his coaching duties at the Lions after a dismal start to the Super 14. In fact his time at the Golden Lions had been marked with what can be termed "indifferent performances" - not really producing the kind of results that were required. Therefore, it did not come as a big surprise when he was fired.

Since taking over from Ludeke, Eugene Eloff has transformed the Lions outfit into a competitive unit which very nearly trounced the Cheetahs in this year's Currie Cup final.

Ludeke's first attempt at becoming a Blue Bull started with the appointment of Heyneke Meyer as head coach of the Pretoria-based side in 2001. His name appeared on the table as one of Meyer's assistant coaches, having been his assistant at the Eagles prior to 2001.

Loyalty

However the Executive Committee of the Blue Bulls vetoed Ludeke's appointment in order to facilitate transformation in the senior coaching structures of the union. John Williams (former Blue Bulls player) was subsequently appointed in his place.

During his tenure at the Lions, Ludeke was renowned for his loyalty towards a core group of players which many argued, eventually led to his downfall. It was said at one stage the Lions had six senior scrumhalves on their payroll!

His appointment to coach the reigning Super 14 champions therefore came like a bolt out of the blue!

Despite his poor record at the top level he managed to beat Rudi Joubert, a former Bulls coach and Springbok technical advisor, to the post.

During his tenure as Bulls coach, Joubert had a credible mid-table finish and was responsible for bringing players like Willem de Waal and Piet Krause on to the international stage. He is a coach that favours playing close to the advantage line and believes in a strong-running flyhalf.

Better choice

I suspect that this must have counted against him as this is not one of the strong points of Derick Hougaard, the "liefling" of Loftus.

Pote Human did a better than good job as a stand-in for Meyer during the last two Currie Cup competitions, but does not come across as astute enough for the demanding Super 14 environment. I would therefore have thought that from an experience, success and pure technical ability point of view, Joubert would have been the better choice.

However, I was led to believe by sources close to the union that the relationship between Joubert and the Blue Bulls hierarchy has not really improved since the bumpy ride he had when he coached the Bulls a few years back.

It thus seems to me that with the appointment of Ludeke, the Blue Bulls have gone for the "safe option", both from a coaching and relationship point of view. Ludeke and Meyer apparently have similar approaches to coaching and from a continuity perspective it is a good outcome for the players.

Challenging

The question is whether Ludeke will be able to command the same level of respect and loyalty that Meyer managed to draw from his players. This has always been Meyer's secret weapon of success at the Bulls.

The Bulls face a particularly challenging Super 14, for as reigning champions, every fixture will be like a final. Ludeke faces an even bigger challenge, namely, to keep the win-spoiled Bulls supporters happy and the need to win the confidence of the players in a very short time before the competition kicks off in February at Loftus. Even more so as the opening match is against arch-rivals, the Stormers.

This is make or break year for Ludeke, it will either confirm his ability and value as a top level coach, or it will signal his final demise.

  • Gary Boshoff is a former Saru player and well-known rugby administrator.

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