Cape Town – Bulls coach Jake White admitted that he was “hurting” after his team relinquished a first-half lead to go down 18-13 to the Stormers in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship final at the Cape Town Stadium.
The Pretoria outfit had a number of opportunities to put the result to bed with attacking entries into the Stormers 22, but battled to convert that pressure into points.
Centre Harold Vorster’s early try was just reward for an excellent start from the visitors, but the Bulls led just 7-3 at halftime as they coughed up possession at crucial stages or conceded breakdown penalties.
White didn’t hide his unhappiness with referee Andrew Brace’s performance, especially how he handled the rucks, with Stormers flank Deon Fourie earning a number of penalties and slowing down the Bulls’ possession without sanction.
At times, Fourie was clearly off his feet or had his hands beyond the ball. But the Stormers No 6 must be given credit for playing to the whistle and taking advantage of the situation, while the Bulls failed to do something about it in the heat of the battle.
“This is hurting, I must say. The referee was outstanding... he saw what he saw. It just felt like the Bulls were never going to win this game...” White said in the post-match press conference.
“From a rugby point of view, we could have won this game. We had enough chances in the first half on attack, and we didn't finish. There were a lot of things that we couldn’t control – small little things.
“Well done to John Dobson – he said he wanted to beat me, and he beat me! But geez, it hurts hey, it hurts.”
White also didn’t want to use the fact that his team had to travel from Dublin as an excuse, although it was evident that the Bulls seemed to run out of legs in the final quarter.
“No, it wasn’t the travel (that lost them the game). The difficult thing was that we had to wait until the very last kick of the Stormers semi-final (against Ulster) to see whether we had to travel back to South Africa or not,” he said.
“So, we couldn’t make any travel arrangements until then. Because we could fly business class, it was impossible to get the whole team onto one flight – some guys had to go via Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt and Paris.”