To the outside world it is a period of transition in the Bulls' Kraal. However, at Loftus Versfeld they truly believe they can win a fourth Super Rugby crown.
Having lost a host of senior players, including six World Cup winners, most pundits believe the Bulls will struggle to repeat their successful run from 2007 to 2010, when they won three Super Rugby crowns.
Players who have left include Bakkies Botha (to Toulon), Gary Botha (Toulouse), Stephan Dippenaar (SA Sevens team), Fourie du Preez (Suntory Sungoliath in Japan), Derick Kuün (retired), Victor Matfield (retired), Jaco Pretorius (retired), Danie Rossouw (Suntory Sungoliath), Bees Roux (Bordeaux Bègles), Gurthrö Steenkamp (Toulouse), Gerhard van den Heever (Stormers) and Stefan Watermeyer (Ospreys).
Their list of acquisitions can mostly be put under the 'youthful and full of potential' category, when compared to those who departed.
Those who joined the Bulls for the 2012 Super Rugby season include Lionel Cronjé (from Stormers), JJ Engelbrecht (Stormers), Jacques Potgieter (EP Kings), Johann Sadie (Stormers), Wilhelm Steenkamp (Cheetahs), Dawie Steyn (Pumas), Jano Vermaak (Lions), Willie Wepener (Clermont) and Daniel Adongo (Sharks).
The established players, with Super Rugby experience, in the latter group include Steenkamp, Vermaak and Wepener.
However, seasoned second row forward Juandré Kruger - who returned to the Bulls in 2010, after a two-year stint with Northampton Saints in England - is adamant the Bulls will not be also-rans in 2012.
After kicking his heels during Super Rugby in 2011, Kruger is one of several Bulls players determined to make the most of his opportunities after the departure of so many veterans.
The athletic lock forward, who impressed in Currie Cup with his ball carrying ability and line-out play, spoke of the "hard work" put in by the Bulls in pre-season and their determination to do well this year.
"Our motto is 'all or nothing' here at the Bulls," he told this website, in an exclusive interview ahead of their season opener against the Sharks in Pretoria on Friday.
"We have been putting it all into training and the last two weekends [against the Kings, a 16-12 win, and Cheetahs, a 39-16 triumph] we started putting that into practice in the matches."
He added that they feel that if they achieve success as a team, it will be to the benefit of the individuals.
"Our futures are in each other's hands."
He said the Bulls will never accept mediocrity.
"Rugby is like everything else in life, you want to achieve the highest honour," he told this website, adding: "If you are happy to just be average you are wasting your time.
"However, if you search for and work towards perfection every day, work hard towards your goals, you will achieve the highest accolades."
He admitted that it is one of his goals to be a Springbok one day, but his focus at present is on the Bulls.
"If we do well, together, as a Super Rugby team and achieve success it will be to the benefit of the individuals."
The Bulls, with an impressive pre-season win over the Cheetahs, put down an early marker, but Kruger felt there is a long way to go yet.
"I had a long chat with Victor [Matfield] about, and we did have a good start [to the pre-season] and that is now our benchmark," the 26-year-old second row forward said.
"However, we now have to work harder than ever before and raise the bar week-after-week.
"I feel we are very well prepared, we have worked very hard up till now. We also have the right coaches and the right structures in place here at the Bulls. All that contributes to self-confidence in the team - so there are no excuses not to do well.
"However, we have to remain humble, despite the good pre-season, but through hard work we can achieve our goals."
By Jan de Koning
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