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Uncertainty over URC schedule sees Bulls appointing separate coach for Currie Cup

Jake White of the Blue Bulls. Photo: David Gibson/Fotosport/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Jake White of the Blue Bulls. Photo: David Gibson/Fotosport/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Dec 2, 2021


Cape Town - With all the uncertainty surrounding the immediate future of the United Rugby Championship schedule for South African teams, the Bulls are forging ahead with plans to appoint a separate coaching staff for next year’s Currie Cup.

The Bulls made history earlier this year when they won the Currie Cup title twice in one year, beating the Sharks in the 2020 tournament final in January 2021, and then getting the better of the Durban side in the 2021 final in September.

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But director of rugby Jake White is taking a proactive step for the hat trick bid, saying in a press conference earlier this week that a new head coach for the Currie Cup team will be named shortly.

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And that person may not be one of the current assistants, which include Chris Rossouw (attack), Russell Winter (forwards), Joey Mongalo (defence) and Nollis Marais (breakdowns).

There have been rumours that the new mentor could be the experienced Gert Smal, who was White’s forwards coach at the Springboks between 2004 and 2007 and has been part of a number of South African and overseas coaching teams.

The Bulls posted on their Twitter account on Thursday that they will be making a “small signing” on Friday.

The URC and Currie Cup are likely to overlap next year, with the Currie Cup rumoured to start in January already.

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“We are busy planning for the Currie Cup campaign – we are going to make a couple of big announcements in the next couple of days. We are hard at work in making sure that our Currie Cup campaign is on track. We’ve won Currie Cups twice in a row, and we take it very, very seriously. So, whatever date it starts or competition we’re in, we take it very seriously,” White said.

“And you will see over the next couple of days, with the announcements that we’re going to make, that the planning is going on behind the scenes. We are not going to let a chance to win three Currie Cups in a row just to be taken for granted.

“I’m going to pick the best coach that I think is going to be the best to help us win another Currie Cup. If it means he comes from outside, then it has to be like that.

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ALSO READ: Bulls vs Sharks: It’s almost like we’re playing the Springboks, says Jake White

“The juggling act is that at the same time from January, there is the Currie Cup, URC and Under-20 rugby. So, it’s going to be quite interesting to see how we can balance it, as you are going to have lots and lots of coaches around. You don’t want that to confuse the players, so you have to streamline it. There is a bit of work that has to be done to get the best out of the group.

“You could play the Sharks this weekend and next weekend, and you could end up playing the same team, but they will be coached by different coaches because they are different competitions. I’m going to get the best guy that I think is going to add the most value to that sort of planning and mix that we need to get.”

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Appointing a separate head coach for the Currie Cup team is necessary as the Bulls are not sure what their URC schedule will look like. At the moment, they are set to face Zebre in Italy on January 8, and then return to South Africa to take on the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on January 29.

After that, there is a game against the Stormers (February 5 in Cape Town), with an open weekend as they were supposed to play against the Sharks in Durban on February 12 – that game is taking place this Friday at Kings Park.

Then there is a length break to the home match against the Stormers in Pretoria on March 5.

“It’s such a difficult thing, but the one thing every team has developed is the ability to adapt. We thought we were playing Munster last week and Scarlets this week, but we’re not. There will be a lot of behind-the-scenes work done on how do we get to play Munster and Scarlets again, and how do we get the credibility of this competition back again?” White said.

“Who knows… maybe over the Six Nations weekends, we might play those teams we missed out on. Maybe we will have to re-jig a couple of Currie Cup games to squeeze in a few URC games as well.

“Maybe we will play all our local derbies over January, February and March – which we would’ve had to play anyway – to give us a bit of time for the dust to settle abroad, and to find solutions for that Covid variant.

“Then we might kick off in April with the rest of the competition. We haven’t got anything official, but I have no doubt that behind the scenes and the way things have been adapted, the URC committee and CEOs will find a way to create credibility in the competition.”