Bulls banking on positive energy ahead of Lions Currie Cup semi-final
CAPE TOWN - Despite having just watched his team lose to the Pumas, Bulls coach Jake White sounded like a relieved man at the Mbombela Stadium at the weekend.
The hosts romped to a convincing 44-14 victory over a makeshift Bulls outfit made up of Under-21 players and others who are not in the regular match-23, due to a combination of Covid-19 positive cases and the fact that they had already secured a Currie Cup home semi-final against the Lions on January 23.
The former Springbok coach took a huge gamble by picking his first-choice halfbacks, Ivan van Zyl and Morné Steyn, to start in what was essentially a meaningless game.
That decision did not make much sense, and White expressed his relief afterwards that there were no further injuries.
“The most important thing that I will take out of this game, which is quite nice, is no injuries.
“I was always a bit worried that we’d lose one or two guys, and that’s why guys like Elrigh Louw, Grobbies (Johan Grobbelaar) and those guys didn’t get on.
“And a guy like Lizo (Gqoboka) got limited time,” he said.
“It’s always not nice – no-one likes to lose, but at the same time, it’s just another reaffirmation of what I’ve always said:
“When you have a team together for a long time, and you prepare properly, you’ve got a chance to win’.
“With Covid and playing on Wednesday (against the Lions last week), it was always going to be tough to have one training session and expect them to sort of play a bit better than they did.
“But the thing that I was happy about is that it was 10-7 in the second half, after being 30-0 down in 20 minutes. It’s not ideal – I never like to lose … It is what it is.”
Now it’s all about January 23 against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld.
A whole host of first-choice players did not feature against the Johannesburg side last week, when the Bulls won 22-15 in Pretoria, due to Covid-19 protocols.
That included virtually the entire backline, so White will hope that the likes of Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans and Cornal Hendricks are ready to play in the semi-final, while forwards such as Walt Steenkamp, Sintu Manjezi and Nizaam Carr have been out of action for the same reason as well.
“We worked hard to get into the semi-finals, and we have a home semi and if we win, we get a home final. If you think back to six, seven, eight months back, we were nowhere.
We won one out of our six Super Rugby games, and we ended seventh in last year’s Currie Cup,” White said.
“Now you can use that positive energy, as we have a hell of a chance to win the Currie Cup.
We haven’t lost at home, so we must just make sure that we maintain that record.”