The sun has set on the empire of the Blue Bulls. The Bulls 26-21 loss to the Force in Perth not only puts to an end the hopes of a 2011 Super 15 title but also foreshadowed the end of an era when the Bulls played smart powerful rugby.
Worse than the prospect of being able to rest in July while other teams are bashing the hell out of each other is the prospect that this is the end of the Heyneke Meyer influence. There was a brainlessness to the Bulls play that went against everything that Heyneke had taught these young bucks when they were still wearing plastic studs to the training ground.
I am pretty sure that, to take a football example, with the structures put in place by Alex Ferguson, without any football coaching experience even I could coach Manchester United to a few wins in the first couple of games of my tenure. But eventually even the greatest coaches find that the structures they put in place need to be rebuilt. I have suspected for a while that a large portion of the Frans Ludeke’s success at the Bulls was based on inheriting structures put in place by Heyneke Meyer and being able to rely on the seniority of players like Fourie Du Preez, Victor Matfield and Danie Roussouw to carry this on. Ludeke, for all intents and purposes, was standing on the shoulders of a giant.
Perhaps the Bulls loss this weekend exposed Ludeke as the coat-tail rider of the rugby coaching world?
The evidence that all the brains have left Pretoria was on display in the final minutes of the game against the force. The Bulls were down 23-18 with ten minutes to go and were pounding the opposition 22m line when the ref awarded a penalty to the Bulls. Anyone who has ever taken a passing interest in rugby (from the under 10 primary school kid, to the girlfriend showing a renewed interest in rugby, to the hardcore drinking enthusiast at the Boer and Brit pub), absolutely anyone with a rudimentary grasp of the game will tell you that with Morne Steyn in your side and with ten minutes to go, a five point margin is best overtaken by slotting two penalties.
Go for posts you morons. You. Have. Morne. Steyn. In. Your. Team.
What do they do? The Bulls take the quick tap with all of the hubris of an invading American army only to knock the ball on in the first tackle.
Eishhhh Heyneke. Your influence and your dream of a Bulls empire is over.