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Teamwork is the key to success in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, believes Vodacom Bulls backline coach, Chris Rossouw.

On the back of the inaugural Vodacom URC season which saw the Vodacom Bulls reach the final against reigning champions, DHL Stormers, and on the verge of the start of the second edition of the cross-hemisphere competition, the Vodacom Bulls’ backline coach reflected on the previous season highlighting areas the Tshwane-based side would target in order to go one better than the previous season and bring the trophy to Loftus Versfeld.

“The past year has been an unbelievable one,” reflected Rossouw.

“From a coaching perspective, what this competition teaches you, as well as the Heineken Champions Cup which we will partake in this season, is that there is a lot more detail in the coaching. As a coach you get stimulated a lot and there is plenty of room for growth.

“You always need to find new ways to perform. If we look at Super Rugby, that was a competition that always suited the individual, made up of stars. However, in the Vodacom URC or Heineken Champions Cup, it is the better team that ends up winning the competition. So, for us to get that cohesion and for me as a coach, it’s about getting that right – making sure that we perform well as a team.”

This week focus in the Vodacom Bulls camp has been firmly on the Vodacom URC season-opening match – a Jukskei Derby against old rivals, Emirates Lions, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

The Vodacom Bulls have been hard at work during their pre-season preparations in the hope of getting their campaign in the 2022/23 season off to a good start.

“it’s the first game of the season, so we expect that everybody will be a little bit short of breath. It is always nice when it’s warm, ideal conditions to run and play our game,” said Rossouw.

“I think for the first game of the season it will be important to control the game and see where our fitness is. We had a very good pre-season, and the guys are looking forward to going out at full pace, so on Saturday we will see where we are. We are confident and we are in a good place to perform.

The side from Fortress Loftus relished the opportunity to have an off-season break after the conclusion of the 2021/22 season. This was the first time in two years that the Vodacom Bulls managed to have a break in between seasons.

“We had a five-week break – which was our first break in about two years. Yes, it was a little longer than usual, but we thought our players deserved it. We have a long season ahead of us, so we thought it would be better to give them one or two more weeks off,” said the backline coach.

“It is expected that we will be off the pace by one or two yards, but in terms of cohesion, we didn’t have too many changes to our group, and we went through a whole lot of detail over the past six weeks with [Strength and Conditioning Coach] Andre Voldsteedt doing a fantastic job with the guys in the gym and on the field. So, we expect it to take us two or three games for us to be back to full game fitness. We are quite confident that we will perform.”

Given the slow start to their campaign in the previous season, Rossouw believes that all the South African sides have learnt some lessons from that experience. The backline coach indicated that the Vodacom Bulls will be going into this current campaign with more confidence and being better prepared for the season that lies ahead.

“In the beginning of the last season we got ourselves on the wrong side of the table and we had to play a little bit of catchup,” he said.

“That was basically getting used to the conditions and tempo. We managed to make a few changes in the middle of the season and that suited us well and we ended up reaching the final. That, for us, was unbelievable, and I also think that there were a few teams that may have underestimated us. This season we know that it will not be a situation where some of the opposition play a weakened side against us.

“We are ready for the challenge. We really enjoyed going to Leinster last season, having the Cell C Sharks here and also playing in the final. We are confident that we will hit our straps soon and pave the way to once again be in the playoffs, hopefully.”

The Vodacom Bulls will travel to Emirates Airline Park on Saturday, with their clash against the Emirates Lions kicking off at 16h05.

The Vodacom Bulls will name their match-day squad of 23 for the encounter on Friday.

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