Heyneke Meyer may no longer be employed at Loftus Versfeld, but that won't stop his long-time friend Frans Ludeke from tapping into his vast knowledge of the game.
The doubting Thomases and knockers feel that the Bulls will no longer be the force that saw them win three Super Rugby titles (2007, 2009, 2010) - in the absence of an esteemed coach like the new Bok coach, Meyer, as well as the departure of world class players like Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez.
However, Ludeke - who was head coach for two of the three Super Rugby victories - said Meyer is not completely lost to the Bulls.
While he will not be involved in any formal capacity, Ludeke will not shy away from asking advice if he feels there is a need for it.
More importantly, Ludeke is convinced he has gained enough experience in the last four years to carry the can even without Meyer in close proximity.
"The systems have been in place for the last 10 years and at one stage  Heyneke [Meyer] wasn't here and it all carried on," Ludeke told this website, as his team stepped up their pre-season preparations.
"There is no doubt that he can make a big difference, he is a unique person.
"He does mean a lot to us and he is a personal friend of mine. But he is not completely gone. Yes, he is the Springbok coach, but his intellectual property and input remains available [to the Bulls].
"For that law discussion seminar [last week] the two of us travelled together.
"While he is not completely lost, I feel I am experience to continue [without his constant presence]."
As for the players, Ludeke said the Bulls not scared by the challenge of taking on the Southern Hemisphere's best with a host of seniors missing from the squad.
Not only have Matfield (retired) and Du Preez (playing in Japan) moved on, but also missing are players like Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha and Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Ludeke feels that the structure and tactics that have been in place for more than a decade will stand them in good stead, even though there will be some "minor adjustments" every year.
He felt that the core of the team have been there and played with those senior players for a long time.
"When it comes to the players, only time will tell," Ludeke told this website.
"It will be all about the decision making processes.
"There is no doubt they have the potential and skills sets ... everything required, but under pressure they have to make tough calls. That will only happen in games, where you will see how they respond.
"However, we have faith in their ability."
The Bulls mentor said it is also the start of a new era for them and they are all "looking forward" to the challenge.
"For many years they observed and learnt from players like Victor [Matfield] and Fourie [du Preez]," he said, adding: "They had great tutors, great leaders to show them the way.
"Those players left behind a great legacy, but it is now their chance and they are all looking forward to the opportunity.
"We are all very motivated and we have worked very hard.
"There are areas [of the game] we feel we want to improve on and go into the games with confidence and leave our mark.
"Yes, there will be mistakes, and we will make some wrong calls - including myself - that is part of life.
"However, it is how you respond [to those mistakes] and how quickly turn that around.
"We are not scared of the challenge, we are looking forwards to it - you live for the occasion."
By Jan de Koning
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