The Bulls may have lost more than 350 Tests caps worth of experience, but the three-time Super Rugby champions believe youthful exuberance can more than make up for that.
Those who have left the Bulls' kraal include long-time captain Victor Matfield, utility forward Derick Kuün and utility back Jaco Pretorius (all retired), lock Bakkies Botha, hooker Gary Botha, prop Gurthrö Steenkamp, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, forward Danie Rossouw (all playing abroad), backs Gerhard van den Heever, Stephan Dippenaar, Stefan Watermeyer, Francois Brummer and Jaco van der Westhuyzen (all released from their contracts).
However, the extended training squad named this week still features 13 Springboks, two Sevens internationals and 23 players with Super Rugby experience. The wider training group of the Bulls consists of 15 players who have won tournament medals with the squad in previous years.
Head coach Frans Ludeke admitted the loss of experience is a major factor, but felt that with some minor adjustments they can continue the legacy that is Bulls rugby.
Speaking to this website about what many critics feel will be a tough transitional period, he said he is confident they have "the right mix" to move forward.
"We were blessed with a host of world class players in the last decade, who progressed to that level," he said of the departure of some of the biggest legends in the game.
"However, the positive is that most of those players were involved in putting these systems in place," Ludeke told this website, adding: "We have an understanding of what the important aspects are ... getting combinations established."
He said the process and system which the Bulls use are "very important" to the players going forward.
"It is the same process and system [used for the past decade].
"However, we also have to be open minded and understand the amount of time it will take to develop players up to that level again.
"I do believe there are players that can step into those roles. If you have the talent, I believe, if you are good enough, you are old enough.
"As for experience, yes, they will make mistakes. But you have to make up for that in other aspects.
"If you feel you lack the experience, you want to see that youthful exuberance coming through ... you want to see players who back themselves."
The Bulls mentor said they will have to re-establish combinations, work on the team unity and will certainly have to make a few adjustments to the way we will play - to adjust to the skill sets of the players.
"However, we do believe we have the right young players, which will develop into stars again. We do believe the balance is till there ... 23 players who have already played Super Rugby.
"Of those who have come through the system with us since 2008, there are 21 players in the squad.
"We do have the right mix. They are now get the opportunity to drive the system and these guys are very excited at getting the opportunity to step to the fore.
"Yes, they will make mistakes, but we are looking forward to a new era. We understand it will take hard work to build a strong foundation again and we are not taking anything for granted.
"Everybody understands that they will have to pull their weight."
Asked about the loss of legends like Victor Matfield, one of a kind, and Fourie du Preez, Ludeke admitted you can't buy the qualities they brought to the game.
"Victor [Matfield], Bakkies [Botha], Danie [Rossouw], Fourie [du Preez]... all those guys - but especially Victor, with the aura he had in the team, you can't replace that.
"However, what you have to do is focus on other strengths.
"You have to go with what you have, you can't worry about what you don't have.
"We have a very athletic and mobile team, with specialists. There are many other aspects we will focus on and hope it brings the results."
By Jan de Koning
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