The Bulls have spent recent seasons trying to shake their reputation for playing smashmouth rugby, but Alan Zondagh says the union is focused on getting results in 2019, not style points.
“Rugby consists of a conservative style and a more creative style and your players should be able to play both styles… the whole spectrum,” Zondagh said on Tuesday after being formally introduced to the media as the Bulls director of rugby, alongside Pote Human who has been promoted to Super Rugby head coach.
“I’ll be there to assist Pote in what he’s doing… we’ll make sure that we play winning rugby.”
Winning is a seven-letter word that hasn’t exactly been echoing in the corridors of Loftus Versfeld much over the past five seasons. South Africa’s infatuation with playing the aesthetically-pleasing style of rugby has come at great cost, in Super Rugby and in the Test arena.
Only the Lions, armed with unprecedented continuity, have offered any resistance to the New Zealand juggernaut while the Springboks have spent the past 12 months piecing their reputation back together after two of the worst seasons in team history.
Between 2005 and 2013, the Bulls finished among the top five teams on seven occasions, but they’ve haven’t cracked the top 8 since, including finishing 12th this season with a 6-10 record.
Like their SA counterparts, the steady decline of the once-mighty Bulls appears to have revived an appetite for success measured in wins, not skills. The acquisition of Duane Vermeulen, Cornal Hendricks and Schalk Brits arms the team with experience and credibility, and Zondagh is eager to tap into those assets on a quest to plant promising youngsters for a future Super Rugby harvest.
“I’ve worked with young players for many years and I think the most important thing at a union or franchise like this is the Super Rugby team,” he said. “We have to develop young players in such a way that they are knocking on the Super Rugby door every year.
Achieving that objective requires quality coaches who have the expertise to optimally develop players.
“It’s no use winning at under-19 and under-21 levels every year, but you’re not really making progress in Super Rugby. We have to look at our systems and get it to where our young players break into the Super Rugby squads. That is my main job.”
— Staff Writer