Bulls CEO, Ludeke come out in support of Pienaar
BLUE Bulls CEO Barend van Graan and the union’s high performance coach Frans Ludeke yesterday rallied in support of embattled Currie Cup coach Pine Pienaar following the team’s tumble to the bottom of the log table, but they admitted that the team’s recent form was "unacceptable".
The Bulls slumped to the lowest point in years last weekend after suffering their third back-to-back defeat in the series, which forced them to the foot of the standings and placed them in the unfamiliar position of possibly being in line to play a promotion-relegation clash to remain in the premier division next year.
This poor form also triggered calls for Pienaar’s head among the diehard Blue Bulls fans.
But while the coach will appear before the union’s board of directors today to explain the team’s form, Van Graan was adamant that Pienaar’s job was safe.
"The position we are in (in the Currie Cup) is unacceptable," said Van Graan. "We don’t want to be at the bottom of the log and we cannot afford to be there, but we are doing our best to rectify the situation. I can give a number of excuses for this, such as the loss of several players (to the Springbok squad) and coaching staff leaving us (to join the national team), but I don’t want to. The fact of the matter is that it is in our hands to turn things around."
Commenting on Pienaar, Van Graan said: "I support Frans, Pine and Dewald (Potgieter, Blue Bulls’ skipper), and I believe the experience Pine and his coaching team have gained will be valuable at all levels at the Blue Bulls in future ... in the end, our season is in the players’ hands, they have deliver on the desired standards."
Ludeke also showed faith in Pienaar and said he believed it was a matter of time before the team’s fortunes changed. "I’m more than confident that Pine can do the job. There is daily communication between us to confirm the strategies and tactics. The coach is not the problem, there are small issues in our game such as our inability to round off our point-scoring chances and mistakes at crucial times that has cost us."
On the field, meanwhile, Pienaar made six changes and two positional switches to his team to face the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, with Bok flank Jacques Potgieter and uncapped scrumhalf Jano Vermaak returning from Rugby Championship duty to boost the team.
Hard-running No8 Arno Botha, meanwhile, returned from injury and will join Potgieter and captain Dewald Potgieter in the loose trio. Loosehead prop Morne Mellet and flank Franco Mostert replace injured Dawie Steyn and Grant Hattingh respectively.
The other changes were on the left wing where Sampie Mastriet earns a start, which allowed Bok back JJ Engelbrecht to switch to outside centre.
We don’t want to be at the bottom of the log, we cannot afford to be there, but we are doing our best to rectify the situation
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