Cape Town – There was no special halftime talk filled with either inspiration or expletives from Jake White to the Bulls players, but rather a reassurance that they had to “carry on” with what they were doing – and it ended in a 29-19 win over Cardiff on Saturday night.
The Currie Cup champions looked dead and buried at 16-3 down at halftime at Cardiff Arms Park following a lethargic display, but stormed back to score 26 points in the second half for their first United Rugby Championship victory, after defeats to Leinster (31-3) and Connacht (34-7) in Ireland.
And they did it despite the departure of star flyhalf Johan Goosen in the 15th minute to what looked like a serious knee injury. Goosen must still go for scans, but White said afterwards that the No 10 was not feeling too optimistic.
“It wasn’t much about what we said – I got the feeling in the first half that we had enough opportunities. We turned the ball over about three or four times in their 22, where they really went hard at the breakdown,” White said in the post-match press conference.
“Had we kept the ball a little bit longer there, maybe we would’ve put them under pressure. We were playing well and we weren’t getting rewarded by being able to keep the ball for longer than two phases.
“I suppose the message was quite simply, we’re getting there and we’re dominating in certain parts of the game… we must carry on, because if we slack off at 16-3 and we allow Cardiff to get another score, and they get their tales up, it’s going to be difficult.
“And I mean, we got exactly what we wanted – score early in the second half, and then the momentum changes and with it comes a little bit of belief. Then 16-10 becomes more and more and more… and eventually, what can I say: 26-3 in the second half, which was fantastic for us.
“I thought it was fantastic… I’m really proud. To lose your 10 after 15 minutes, 13-0 down to Cardiff at home, what more can you ask for than what they did? They were so resilient; they got stuck in there, every one fronted up.
.@madoshtambwe shows some serious speed to chase down the loose ball and give @BlueBullsRugby a crucial score in a seriously impressive second half performance#URC | #CDFBUL pic.twitter.com/8WmS4Nf81I— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) October 9, 2021
“I was asked about the fitness of this team last week, and this (performance) put that to bed as well as we scored all those points in the second half. It’s a nice way for us as a team to get massive amounts of confidence in everything.
“The way we played as well – there is a lot of talk about the Bulls style over the years, and I’ve worked hard with the coaches, and I’m glad for them that people can see the Bulls play a little bit different to what most teams are expecting.”
White heaped praise on left wing Kurt-Lee Arendse, who was the Man of the Match in his first outing since sustaining concussion in a nasty incident during the Currie Cup, when the ball was kicked against his head by Cheetahs fullback Cohen Jasper, on August 28.
But the 25-year-old Blitzbok star, who came to prominence for the University of the Western Cape in the 2019 Varsity Cup, was busy from the start, chasing after kicks, beating defenders with his pace and footwork, and scrambling back in defence to save the day for the Bulls on numerous occasions.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of him. He last played two months ago – he got knocked out with that head injury when the ball was kicked to his head – and look what he did. It was incredible… it’s almost like he’s been on the field for the last two months,” White said.
“He was never out of place, defensively read well, dropped back. Attacking-wise, he showed the skills that he has. I was very happy for him because now he got through this game without any other head injury, which is always the risk when you come back from concussion, and I am sure he will take a massive amount of confidence out of the game.”