‘Birds of a feather…..’ It is funny how when you go back in history you see that in 1997 Frans Ludeke coached the Transvaal u-19’s with Jake White and Ludeke was assistant coach to Heyneke Meyer in the 2000 Super 12 season coaching the Bulls.
In 2002 Ludeke was the Cats coach in the then Super 12. Out of the 11 games the Cats played they won only 1. That is a 9% win ratio. Not only did they lose 10 games they just never looked as though they were headed for success through improvement in playing style or performances.
What amazes me is that Ludeke was given another chance to coach the Cats again in 2006. What professional organisation operates in this way? They fire a coach for not being able to do the job but hire him again 4 years later. Did they expect him to be any less clueless than the first time? He got 2 wins in 2006 but this time it was the Super 14 and he lost 11 games. This time with a win ratio of 15%. The Lions looked lost and directionless. Ludeke got fired once again.
Ludeke made the best move of his career when he was named head coach of the Bulls in 2008 a position he held for 8 years before stepping down with 1 year left on his contract in 2015.
Not many coaches can boast to Superugby titles. While Ludeke was at the helm, the Bulls won the 2009 and 2010 Superugby titles.
It may sound like sour grapes, especially as I have always been a Lions supporter, but I honestly did not like the rugby that the Bulls played throughout their successful period (2007-2010). As many of those Bulls were Springboks and the Springboks played a similar way I was not a fan of the way they played then either even though the Springboks won a RWC in 2007 and won a series against the British and Irish Lions in 2009. I felt that the laws of the time were holding back the teams that were trying to score tries and rewarding teams stopping this type of game. Boring rugby was to the fore and exhilirating rugby was being suppressed. I never saw a long term viability in this way of playing. I felt it could not be sustained as it was too dependent on it’s individuals and not the collective.
Domkrag rugby has proved to be successful in the past whether I like it or I don’t. I think that amongst that Bulls team of that period you could not have had more suitable players for that style of playing. Their leader Victor Matfield along with other influential members of the squad Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Bryan Habana. Danie Rossouw and Morne Steyn could not have bought into that gameplan any more than they did.
The foundations for this Bulls dynasty were laid by Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke just facilitated the continuation of the plan. More than likely Victor Matfield had a big influence on proceedings and with Fourie du Preez pulling the strings on the field and Morne Steyn slotting the kicks, and Bryan Habana diligently chasing every high bomb like a dog that fetches a stick, success was self perpetuating.
The Superugby titles won by the Bulls in 2009 and 2010 were the brainchild of Heyneke Meyer led by Matfield on the field. For Ludeke it was a case of just keeping the momentum going.
It was when the momentum lost energy that Ludeke was found out. Domkraggers have a vision and a belief that their way is right and they stick with it come hell or high water. The thing is Ludeke’s gameplan was not his it was Heyneke Meyer’s. So Ludeke was not even an authentic Domkragger.
Before the beginning of the 2015 Super 15 the Bulls had a warm up game against Saracens at Allianz Park in Barnet , North London. I was at that match and noticed several things as a coach would. The scrumming was poor especially in the opening 20 minutes by the Bulls. Francois Hougaard kicked several high bombs, one of which went straight into touch, when the Bulls were in a good area on the field with space out wide. When the Bulls turned over ball they would immediuately kick and chase rather than hold onto it and move it wide. Ludeke said after the match that tackling and kicking needed to improve for the start of the Super 15. Really!!?
As it turned out the continued decline of the Bulls with Ludeke at the helm gained momentum and after a final embarrasing defeat to the lowly Cheetahs and the Bulls winning 7 out of 16 games, Ludeke stepped down as head coach with still another year left on his contract. The Bulls administration never fired him, one Bulls official actually told the fans off for making Ludeke feel like he should resign. Results and progress seemed to be secondary to ‘buddies’ at South African Franchises and Unions. That is no way to run a professional outfit.
Ludeke got looked after by all his friends in the establishment he was assistant coach of Fiji in the 2015 RWC and currently coaches the Kubota Spears in Japan.