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Rugby | Currie Cup

No choice for Bulls but to alter defence

While the Vodacom Blue Bulls are still coming to terms with their new defensive system, there was no way they couldn’t change if they wanted to reach the top again.

That’s the view of defensive coach Pine Pienaar, who discussed the teething pains the side are currently going through in this year’s Currie Cup competition, and believes the union had no choice but to move forward and adapt if they were to develop as a unit and improve as a team.

“I think so, obviously Mitch came in and said this is what he wants. And what he wants as a system really excites me and it excites the players,” Pienaar said about changing the way the Bulls defend.

“It was always to be a challenge to change the whole system and put in different habits and fix that. But I think game for game it may not look like that, but there were definitely areas we have improved in and the more the players get used to the system the more the players get used to understanding their roles and understanding what we want. And they will grow into that.

“It would always have been a challenge for us in the Currie Cup – adapting to a new system, but it is definitely the way forward. It is definitely a process where we broke off old habits and got into new ones.”

“In the past we did well, but I think that the last two, three seasons from a defensive point of view, things went in a new direction and to get to that system, there are a few habits to fix. For instance when it comes to your tackle, the quality of your tackle, the height of the tackler, there is a lot of stuff that needs to be done differently. But I believe that for us that is the only way to go. That is the only system that puts sides with a good skill block under pressure. So going into next year I think you have to take away the skill set of the players you play against. Obviously we are still learning and this weekend there can maybe be a different area that sides will punish you at, and then you have to say ‘okay, if they do that, we have to fix this.’

“But I think the players and myself have already bought in 100% and I know it will take time, but we are definitely progressing into a new direction that I think the players like.”

While the Currie Cup of late has not been known for defence and high scorelines are the order of the day, Pienaar believes that the Bulls need to prepare for the adaptation from attack to defence to make sure that if they give up the ball, they stop the counter-attack a lot quicker than they are currently doing.

“You can have a look at the type of tries that have been currently scored – a lot from turnover ball and counter-attacks. Obviously the more you attack, you stand a greater opportunity that you will lose the ball. There are a lot of tries being leaked by sides, us included, but I think the biggest thing is that if you can force turnovers from your defence, and put sides under pressure, that is one of the areas you cant prepare for – because you don’t know where you will lose the ball. There are a lot of turnover tries currently in the competition, especially 10 metres from the goalline there are a lot of maul tries. For us the transition from attack to defence is one of the things we have worked on, we are still not there yet.

“It is challenging but for us it is still a process that we want to see that by the end of the season will help us into next year’s Super Rugby season. For us it is about fixing old habits, turning a new page and getting to new habits. Making sure that everyone in the system that everyone knows exactly where we are going to. We are in the position that we lost a few players to the Springboks after Super Rugby and to the overseas market, and we are playing with a bunch of youngsters. But it is not an excuse, a lot of provinces are in the same position, so currently for myself it is how quickly we can get the whole union - from when they make the jump up from under-21 to senior level that they all know what to do. It is going to take time but hopefully the next five games you will see everyone on the same page and you will see results.”

The new system is more aggressive, more in-your-face and comes with risk, but Pienaar made it clear they have to see it through

“It is definitely a more aggressive system, and with that there are definitely different roles. That is the biggest thing we want to fix, so for us – people outside will see it is a more aggressive type of defence but for us there is a lot more risk in that, and for us the risk means everybody needs to be on the page. The system we are chasing now is 180 percent different from where we were at. That is the biggest thing for us, if they understand their new role, and how they have to defend new situations and they get repetition after repetition after repetition and they grow into that, I believe in the next season or two we will definitely be successful.”

The Bulls are currently sitting in sixth spot in the seven team competition and face the Golden Lions this weekend in their Jukskei derby.


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