Cape Town — Bulls boss Jake White says he was playing golf on Thursday, which resulted in the delay of the team announcement for Friday’s Currie Cup clash against Western Province, and that he was not playing mind-games with the Capetonians.
The former Springbok coach waited until 6pm on Thursday evening to name his match-23 for the Loftus Versfeld showdown (7.05pm kickoff), whereas his Province counterpart John Dobson revealed his squad at 11am on the same day.
While Dobson opted for a mix between URC and Currie Cup players, White chose his strongest possible line-up following the 63-15 mauling at the hands of the Pumas in Pretoria last Sunday.
The Bulls director of rugby, though, insisted that the heavy defeat to the Pumas was not the reason for bringing back the likes of captain Ruan Nortjé, fellow Springboks Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink, as well as backline regulars such as Chris Smith and Harold Vorster.
“I played golf today, and I must fit in with you guys (the media) – so I just decided that we will do it after the golf,” White said on Thursday evening.
“I had to see the doctor this morning for a small niggle, and then I played golf. So I thought I would wait a bit longer… I couldn’t do it this morning because I had to see the doctor, and I couldn’t do it during the day as I was playing golf.
“So, it wasn’t mind-games story. I read today that Dobson knew anyway that it was going to be the best team that we were going to select. So, there aren’t mind-games – he knew already.
“This week has got nothing to do with what happened last week, in our composition of this team. We’ve got Ulster (URC) next week and Toulouse (Champions Cup) the following week, both away from home. We’ve got Griquas the following week on a Friday, so it’s a short turnaround.
“(Bulls Currie Cup head coach) Edgar (Marutlulle) and I are working really hard together on compositions of what we think is best for our group. We’re looking at combinations that we want to try…
“We know that Gerhard (Steenekamp), Grobbies (Johan Grobbelaar) and Mornay (Smith) scrum well together, but we are not always going to have those three together every single week. And if we do, then we are not creating hope for the other team.
🚨 TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 🚨— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) March 16, 2023
Here is your Vodacom Bulls team to take on DHL Western Province in the North/South derby at Loftus tomorrow 💪
🎟️ Tickets: https://t.co/izMZxy8veB
☘️ St Patrick’s Day party
🐂 U20’s curtain Raiser at 16:30
🍻 Castle Corner
🏆 Currie Cup pic.twitter.com/6s4cH0JQVw
“Edgar and I have chatted, and this is what we think is important for this weekend. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction on what happened last week.
“It’s an opportunity for us to look at where we are, what we need when we play next week, and keep ourselves alive for all the competitions over the next couple of weeks.”
WP will be the favourites at Loftus, considering how they saw off the Lions 44-28 at Ellis Park last Saturday and the strong side that will run out at Loftus on Friday.
But White said that the Bulls are determined to produce a much more cohesive display against their arch-rivals.
“We are disappointed with that performance last week. I saw (Pumas coach) Jimmy’s (Stonehouse) face during the game, and I think he also realised that it cannot be happening like that,” the Bulls mentor said.
“I can’t think that he shook his head like that because he is arrogant. Everything went well for them, and it is a good opportunity for us to see how we work through the pressure.
“It’s always a big game… North-South is always big for us, and we are still alive in all three competitions. It’s been one game in the Currie Cup, and Naas (Botha) always said you don’t win the Currie Cup in May – but now you can win it in June!
“You don’t lose the first game and then it’s over. The Boks won the World Cup in 2019 and lost the first game to New Zealand. When Spain won the soccer World Cup, they also lost the first game.
“I know people will say and write that there is huge pressure, and there are people who are talking in the corridors and all of that…
“We’ve had an unbelievable time up to now, and accepted some pressure. But tomorrow night is nothing other than another game. We must just make sure that we play well.
“For us, it’s a good opportunity to win a game at home. We have disappointed our fans, and we get a chance tomorrow to set things right.”
Blue Bulls Team
15 David Kriel 14 Quewin Nortjé 13 Cornal Hendricks 12 Harold Vorster 11 Sbu Nkosi 10 Chris Smith 9 Zak Burger 8 Elrigh Louw 7 Cyle Brink 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortjé (captain) 4 Ruan Vermaak 3 Mornay Smith 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: 16 Bismarck du Plessis 17 Simphiwe Matanzima 18 Francois Klopper 19 Janko Swanepoel 20 WJ Steenkamp 21 Embrose Papier 22 Morné Steyn 23 Stedman Gans.