Ludeke defends Bulls changes
May 13, 2010
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke lifts the 2009 Super 14 trophy © Getty Images
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has defended his decision to rest his entire team for his side's top of the table clash with the Stormers on Saturday, despite its potential effect on the final shape of the Super 14 top four.
The Bulls are guaranteed top spot going into the final round while the second-placed Stormers need a win to secure a home semi-final. A loss would likely see them finish fourth, meaning they would face the Bulls in the final four with the clash set for Orlando Stadium in Soweto due to the fact that Loftus Versfeld would be in use for the Fifa World Cup.
But the Stormers have effectively been given a free pass to a home semi, costing teams such as the Waratahs the chance to get home ground advantage and a lucrative play-off gate should they leapfrog the Stormers into second.
Ludeke has made 13 changes, resting the likes of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Morne Steyn, Gurthro Steenkamp, Gary Botha, Wynand Olivier and Pierre Spies, while Gerhard van der Heever was ruled out of the match and one final for a dangerous tackle. Jacques-Louis Potgieter is the only survivor from the team that beat the Crusaders in Round 13.
The Waratahs have considered an appeal to Sanzar but Ludeke insists he is within his rights to look after the Bulls' interests.
"There are a lot of things that we take into account and while we know there may be some unhappiness from overseas teams, we haven't simply pulled guys out for nothing," Ludeke told Supersport. "We have six guys who have played more than 960 minutes of rugby and they need a rest. There are bigger things to consider for the remainder of the competition. We also sit with players like Akona (Ndungane -- broken leg), Jaco Pretorius (foot injury) so a guy like Deon Helberg comes in because he is the next winger in line.
"This is not a B-team. There are seven national players in this team and we have a lot of respect for our opponents. But we are here to run our own race and we are doing nobody favours. We are playing a good side in the Stormers, but we also have a good side on paper."
The SARU said no action would be taken against the Bulls because the players selected form part of their nominated squad of 30 players, even though six players in the Bulls' squad have not yet played in Super Rugby.
"If you're picking your team from within your registered squad of 30 players, there's nothing anyone can do about it," an SARU spokesman said, according to the Courier-Mail. "Only if the Bulls picked 15 guys who aren't in their 30 would we look at it. Let's face it, just about every team takes the chance of resting players against the Lions and Cheetahs."
Waratahs executive Jim L'Estrange had this week considered an appeal when it first emerged the Bulls planned to field a second XV, but by Wednesday he had accepted the situation and said the Waratahs were focusing on their own game, a crucial home clash with the top-four chasing Hurricanes.