Jake White wants Bulls to ‘push the tempo’ on fast 4G track
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Cape Town - Expect some fireworks from the Bulls in Saturday night’s clash with Cardiff (8.35pm SA time kick-off) as they look to reignite their United Rugby Championship campaign after two defeats in Ireland.
Bulls coach Jake White made a number of changes to his team, which lost 34-7 to Connacht last week, and some of it has to do with who is available to play; the rest is due to the quick 4G synthetic surface at Cardiff Arms Park.
David Kriel, Madosh Tambwe, Kurt-lee Arendse and Embrose Papier will add serious pace to the backline, and White said he had been intending to bring in another Blitzbok star in Stedman Gans at outside centre, but a tight hamstring has kept him out.
“Again, this 4G pitch is quick, really quick. If your hamstring’s a bit tight… if he tears his hamstring, he will be out for a long time. So, I would’ve liked to have played him (Gans) and Cornal together at centre, but as it stands, it hasn’t worked out,” White said from Cardiff yesterday.
“It’s a little bit of fortune that all these guys are ready this weekend, a guy like Kurt-lee coming back and David Kriel missing out last week. If Stedman had been there, it would’ve been a nice, almost a sevens-lookalike backline who’ve got feet and can get step a bit on that surface.
“So it’s also timing, so I’m quite keen to see how that backline goes on such a hard surface. It’s just a very different feel… the pace of the game, and because it’s so even and flat, players can really push themselves. Teams push tempo big-time, the pace of the game, out-working people instead of going through them, and the skill level helps as much.”
The Bulls have been able to train on a synthetic pitch this week, which is the closest thing to a 4G surface, and the Pretoria outfit will look to keep the ball alive even more than they have up til now.
Conditions will be very different from the Leinster and Connacht games, and White hopes his strike-runners can take their chances against Cardiff.
“The most important thing is how we adapt to the new surface. When I watched the teams who have played on it, the pace is very quick, so a lot of things change – the way you attack the breakdown, the numbers you have on your feet,” White said.
“To commit too many and the ball pops out and they get quick ball, then you’ve got a problem, because the reality is that the game is so quick, you don’t get to fill the field.
“But at the same time, if you just give the opposition the ball all the time, then it’s also very difficult because you never catch up. So, the decision-making of when to go in and to make sure we have numbers on our feet from a defensive point of view. Then, attacking-wise, to adapt and I suppose play as quickly as we can as well.
“The quicker you play, the more you test the defence. Understanding that this sort of surface that can challenge you both defensively and attacking-wise,” he said.