Jake wants ruthless display against Benetton

JOHAN Goosen is back from suspension and will start at flyhalf for the Bulls against Benetton today. BackpagePix

JOHAN Goosen is back from suspension and will start at flyhalf for the Bulls against Benetton today. BackpagePix

Published May 18, 2024


WHILE being able to top the United Rugby Championship log is not in the Bulls’ hands, Jake White is not too stressed about it.

Having named a team with just one change yesterday – Johan Goosen replaces Chris Smith at flyhalf – for today’s showdown with Benetton at Loftus Versfeld (2pm kick-off) proved that White has a settled side ahead of the play-offs.

But what the Pretoria side need to do is find consistency in their second-half performance this afternoon, just in case URC log leaders Glasgow slip up against the Lions at Ellis Park later today (4.05pm).

The Johannesburg outfit, who are 10th on 44 points, have to win to stay alive in the play-off race, but a victory for Ivan van Rooyen’s Lions will also be a huge favour to the Bulls to push for top spot.

Before this weekend’s matches, the top four was headed by Glasgow on 60 points, followed by Leinster (59), Munster (58) and the Bulls (56), with Leinster facing Ulster away tonight, while Munster took on seventh-placed Edinburgh in Scotland last night.

“There are so many permutations. We could win tomorrow and still only be able to finish fourth, or we could come first if we win our last two games. And the same goes for those teams in positions eight, nine and 10,” White said yesterday.

“Losing to Munster was massive for us as we would probably have been first now, but we still have an opportunity to finish first or second if things go the way they should go.

“What is important is that we play as well as we did for those 58 minutes throughout every game going forward now.

“As we get to the play-off stages, if you’re not on song for 80 minutes, you could lose. We could easily have lost if we didn’t kick that late penalty, as they’ve got international players.

“To get Glasgow 37-10, it was a dominant performance, and it could have been 40-something-10 as we took the three-pointers instead of kicking to the corner.

“The best three games you’ve got to play are the last three – quarter-final, semi-final and final. In the 60 minutes, there were times that we were outstanding against Glasgow. Those 60 minutes is the benchmark of how we want to play for 80 minutes.”

White was quick to point out that Benetton, who are eighth on 48 points and beat the Sharks 25-24 in Durban last week, won’t be pushovers, as they boast a number of seasoned Italy internationals such as centre Ignacio Brex and loose forwards Lorenzo Cannone and Sebastian Negri.

But for the Bulls, it’s about ensuring that the bench can complete what the starting XV deliver.

Benetton may choose to copy Munster and Glasgow’s blueprint this season of starting slowly to preserve their energy and then going on an all-out attack in the last quarter, so it’s something the hosts’ reserves must be wary of.

“We are probably not as ruthless as we should be when you have almost won the game. Our bench still has lots to grow in terms of understanding what’s required. You can’t watch the game as a spectator – you’ve got to work out what is needed from you as a bench player,” White said.

“I don’t think we are smart enough yet – and again, it’s no attack on any individual – to understand what is needed from the bench in the last 20 or 30 minutes, as it changes.

“In some games you need to chase, and in others you need to slow it down. Some games you need a balance between the forwards and backs, and in some games you need to play with the backs.

“Also, teams have become smarter in dealing with altitude. They are slowing it up at the start, as they control the game not getting away from them, but then they run out of time.

“The only thing that stopped Glasgow from winning was time, as they ran out of time.”

Teams for Loftus Versfeld

Bulls: 15 Willie le Roux 14 Canan Moodie 13 David Kriel 12 Harold Vorster 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Johan Goosen 9 Embrose Papier 8 Cameron Hanekom 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortjé (co-capt) 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Wilco Louw 2 Akker van der Merwe 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Bench: 16 Johan Grobbelaar 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Francois Klopper 19 Reinhardt Ludwig 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Keagan Johannes 22 Chris Smith 23 Sebastian de Klerk

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith 14 Ignacio Mendy 13 Tommaso Menoncello 12 Ignacio Brex 11 Onisi Ratave 10 Leonardo Marin 9 Andy Uren 8 Lorenzo Cannone 7 Sebastian Negri 6 Alessandro Izekor 5 Eli Snyman (capt) 4 Scott Scrafton 3 Simone Ferrari 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi 1 Thomas Gallo

Bench: 16 Bautista Bernasconi 17 Destiny Aminu 18 Tiziano Pasquali 19 Edoardo Iachizzi 20 Toa Halafihi 21 Alessandro Garbisi 22 Tomas Albornoz 23 Marco Zanon