Jake White delighted Bulls didn’t ‘panic’ in second half against Lions
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CAPE TOWN - Jake White lauded his Bulls team for “squeezing” the life out of the Lions as he savoured a 26-21 victory that secured a Currie Cup final spot at Loftus Versfeld next Saturday.
The Pretoria outfit will take on the Sharks, who dampened Western Province’s Newlands farewell with a 19-9 win in the second semi-final on Saturday.
The Bulls sped into a 14-0 lead just after halftime, and weathered a storming comeback from the Lions, who levelled the scores with two quick tries.
Johan Grobbelaar’s driving maul try and a second touchdown for impressive young wing Stravino Jacobs sealed the deal for the Bulls, who will host their first Currie Cup final since 2009 – which is also when they last won the title.
“The nice thing is that we’ve had really good fighting spirit in the second half – I said it last week as well, that we won most of the second halves. After being 14-0 up and then two minutes later 14-all, some sides would maybe start to panic. The fact that we regrouped and ended up showing lots of composure is obviously satisfying for me as a coach,” White said in the post-match press conference.
“We squeezed them and squeezed them and squeezed them, and at 11-0, it was a true reflection, even though we didn’t have a lot of the ball.
“The one thing the Lions have consistently done well over the last couple of years is that they come prepared and are not going to go away. They are a very difficult team to play against, and I was always aware of the fact that they will make it tough for you to win games. They weren’t going to lie down and die.”
White reserved special praise for captain Duane Vermeulen, who produced an inspirational display and also made the big call for a penalty to be kicked into touch instead of at the posts when it was 14-14 in the second half.
Grobbelaar’s try was the outcome of that lineout, which put the Bulls 21-14 up, before Lions locks Marvin Orie and Willem Alberts both received yellow cards for repeated infringements from referee Rasta Rasivhenge.
“In the coach’s box, you maybe want to make sure they take the three! I thought Rasta (Rasivhenge, the referee) handled that period play really well. There were times when I thought the Lions, especially in their 22, where the breakdown was a bit untidy and they could’ve been penalised there,” White said.
“As it was, they got one or two turnovers, especially one where we were on our way to score, and the ball popped out.
“I supposed he (Vermeulen) is a World Cup winner, Man of the Match in the final, and they’ve also got to have an understanding of the field as the captain. He knows… he is on the field and got a sense that certain things are working, and you’ve got to trust him, just like they’ve got to trust the coaching staff on the homework we do, we have to trust them on the field – especially the captain who takes over on a Saturday.”
A forlorn-looking Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen bemoaned his side’s lack of discipline that ultimately cost his team dearly.
A statistic displayed on the TV coverage just before the end showed the Lions had conceded 20 penalties to just 10 by the Bulls, and as a result, the Johannesburg side could never really get going.
“Obviously the discipline cost us. To lose two locks in the last 20 minutes of the game is going to make it tough. We gave them ball easily with our mistakes. Very proud of the guys to fight back – score the two tries, and then at the end, having been down to 13 guys for 10 to 12 minutes. Proud of the character, proud of the fight,” he said.
“I don’t think you will win any game with 20 penalties against you. What happens is that you give the opposition momentum, and then the ref tends to be a little more harsh anyway – which is normal. That’s our own fault – not Rasta.”