Bekker wants Bulls to challenge themselves

rugby01 March 2024 05:00
By:Brenden Nel
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Andries Bekker @ Getty Images

Vodacom Bulls assistant coach Andries Bekker said that the team wouldn’t change their mental preparation ahead of this week’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby with DHL Stormers to try and snap a seven-game losing streak against the coastal side.

The Bulls have not beaten their southern rivals in the URC yet and Bekker knows that a key to making this season successful is to break that losing streak.

Bulls coach Jake White has already intimated that they haven’t used sports psychologist Henning Gericke much this week, preferring to say less so that the players can concentrate on focusing their attention on the game. By not altering their prep but just saying less so that the players can challenge themselves, the Bulls hope to get that result.

Bekker said the players need to challenge themselves on how they can do better to break that streak.

“I know there is a lot of history in Bulls-Stormers, and there always will be, but I don’t think we must change our mental prep just because it’s the Stormers,” he said.

“We mustn’t blow up this game as if it is a final - the final is still coming. If you want to be the best player in the country and in this competition, then you must challenge yourself against the best players in the other teams.

While other coaches often play down the one-on-one rivalries from such a big game, Bekker has embraced it as the type of challenge the Bulls need to overcome.

“A good challenge will be Marco (van Staden) against Deon Fourie. Both were in the Bok group for the World Cup and have had bloody good seasons so far, and it’s the same with Ruan Nortje against Ruben van Heerden - if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

“How you can transfer pressure and relieve pressure, and game management with your kicking and running games. That’s one of our big learnings from our last game in December - just how we transfer pressure and how we didn’t really relieve pressure.

“It was a close game and one we could’ve won, but we didn’t. So, it’s good learning for this one on Saturday.”

Bekker praised the culture at the Stormers as “something special” and said this was one of the reasons they have been unbeaten against other South African sides for more than two years.

“You can see this season, they’re that one team that everyone is watching. Everyone is fighting for that same purpose. It’s not to say that we are different, but you can definitely see that there is something special going on there, and that’s why they haven’t lost to a South African team in quite a while,” Bekker said.

“That’s our challenge: to bring our special thing to the pitch on Saturday.”

Bekker referred back to the Bulls' dominance in his playing days when they humiliated his Stormers side by a record margin in 2005.

“I will take it back to when I played. We lost 75-14 at Loftus, and then the following year we lost again with 50 points. Then the year after that, it was 40 points.

“But those six or seven years of losing to them, you get each time that feeling of it’s getting a bit closer and closer. The score is getting smaller, closer, tighter games - until the one time when you just have that special week where everything is perfect.

“The first time that our Stormers team beat the Bulls was 2011, if I remember correctly. Then it’s like, okay, everything is off your shoulders.

“That is how the week worked out, and this is the follow-up, of seeing what worked for us in previous games.

“We must just get our special thing for Saturday, and we are working hard on that. The guys have the same feeling of: 'It’s getting closer and closer'. We are getting there, and we must just fine-tune it and everyone must bring their personal belief and what’s important to them.”

Bulls fans will be hoping that this is the week they do turn the corner and break the streak, and if they do, it will set them up nicely for a good run at the business end of the URC competition.