Cape Town - After the dust had settled around a poor second-half display, Jake White was able to find a few positives in the Blue Bulls’ 48-38 Currie Cup victory over Griquas on Saturday.
The director of rugby, who was standing in for an ill Gert Smal, was livid about the Pretoria-based team conceding 33 points after half-time, having played the visitors off the park for a 36-5 lead at the break at Loftus Versfeld.
The Bulls relaxed and allowed the team from Kimberley to chip away at the deficit, and they came within 10 points of producing an astonishing turnaround.
But some of the home team’s tries were a joy to watch, and three standout youngsters put their hands up for selection in the United Rugby Championship side that will take on Ospreys in their last round-robin match next Friday in Wales.
Hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels repaid the faith White has in his abilities with a busy display around the pitch. He punched holes in the Griquas defence with a couple of barnstorming carries, while he found his jumpers in the lineouts as well.
Lock Reinhardt Ludwig also got stuck in physically, and contributed to the lineout cause, and Canan Moodie looked more comfortable than in previous matches in his conversion to fullback.
“When you look at that, you’ve got a really young hooker… I thought our scrum was solid, and his line-outs for the first 60 minutes were solid. It’s very different when you don’t have (Ruan) Nortje there, and you have a young guy like Ludwig calling the line-out as well,” White said.
“If you look at that whole package, you’ve got a fullback that’s 19, a hooker who’s relatively young (21) in that position, and a caller in the line-out who has just come out of school.
“Those are the positives, and there were other positives too: Madosh’s (Tambwe) defensive display, his work-rate; other things I can think about. We have to look at ways we do not find ourselves in that situation again.
“Even in the coaches’ box, it was very frantic with the yellow cards, who should come on and go off… We couldn’t make substitutions, so it influences all the other impacts of what we need to do.
“It’s also a learning for the coaches in how we handle that intensity and roll-on that Griquas got in that short space (of time).”
White felt it was also a valuable lesson for the entire Bulls group, with the United Rugby Championship campaign heading into the final straight with the Ospreys clash before the quarter-finals, while a Currie Cup home semi-final is also on the horizon.
“The one thing about knockout games is that there are no bonus points, so then it changes the nature of the game. Maybe we would’ve built more scoreboard pressure, taken the three instead of going to the corner,” he said.
“Then the flow of the game looks completely different as well. We did get out of it what we wanted. So far there are no injuries and everybody is available for next weekend. We’ve got two weeks before we get to the Ospreys, and I wouldn’t say it was a complete failure.
“When you get things wrong, you’re able to measure what you need to get right. There are certain things that we have to get right, otherwise we’re not going to be good enough to get into the next round of the URC, but we also want to win the Currie Cup.
“There are a lot of players that if they want to be part of the Currie Cup knockout stages, they are going to have to understand that we are going to have to get those things right. It’s about understanding what you need to do.”