Ludeke takes it on the chin
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke spoke to Jan de Koning about the criticism levelled at him over his selection policies.
As the well-worn idiom goes: 'The tallest trees catch the most wind.' In the case of Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, that has come in the form of harsh criticism.
While there was some critique over his 'management' of veteran Victor Matfield and numerous barbs over his backline choices, it was the selection of his loose forwards that attracted the most fiendish and frightful comments.
The Bulls were particularly vulnerable at the breakdowns, where the absence of a specialist openside flank - in the wake of injuries to Deon Stegmann and Dewald Potgieter - cost them dearly.
Ludeke persisted with Jono Ross, who by his own admission is more suitable on the blindside or at No.8.
The Bulls mentor took it all in his stride, but admitted that in hindsight some selection decisions could have been different and that he may have been able to put together better combinations.
"There were a lot of opinions about openside flank," he said of the route he took after injuries ruled out key players like Stegmann, Potgieter and Arno Botha.
"I took that [criticism fire at him] on board," Ludeke told rugby365 in an interview in the build-up to the final match of the season, against the Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
"Jono Ross has grown a lot," he said, adding: "Wiaan Liebenberg, who is a specialist in that [openside] position, and Roelof Smit both spent time on the sidelines with injury. They are now fully fit again."
While Ludeke was willing to take the criticism on board, he also felt that at times there were "small things and some basic errors" that cost them.
"In some games, with the selections we made, we got good results."
However, by his own admission, injuries often forced his hand and while, as a coach, he has to take responsibility, it was not always within in control.
"You can sometimes make better decisions, because you have to win - that is the bottom line," Ludeke said.
"Yes, we did not always perform to our true potential this year, because it was within our grasp to reach the play-offs.
"But, then again, at times we only selected the best from what was at our disposal and injuries did make it more challenging for us."
Ludeke hopes that one of the players who has been on the fringes and at times unavailable through injury, Roelof Smit, will solve part of his breakdown problem.
It is a solution he can, hopefully, take into the Currie Cup season that gets underway next month.
By Jan de Koning