Not all doom and gloom for Bulls after Benetton ambush, says coach Jake White
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CAPE TOWN - The Bulls looked like a deer caught in the headlights with the way they surrendered meekly to Benetton, and coach Jake White felt that his team “were a bit short of the pace in everything” in Saturday’s 35-8 Rainbow Cup final defeat in Treviso.
Having conquered South African rugby by winning the Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup titles, as well as topping the local log in the Rainbow Cup, the men from Pretoria were favourites to clinch their third trophy at the Stadio di Monigo.
Instead, it was a bit of an ambush as Benetton – captained by former Stormers scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage – played with immense passion, accuracy and spark on attack to dominate proceedings.
The Bulls looked lethargic from the outset, and the 32-degree heat and presence of 1 000 spectators seemed to squeeze all the energy out of their performance.
“I don’t think it’s unexpected, to be fair. I’ve coached overseas and I know it’s a completely different game up north here. Treviso are well coached, the same coaching staff (for a few years) – in fact, a couple of their coaches have now been appointed to coach Italy,” White said in an online press conference afterwards.
“A lot of those players have played for Italy in the last couple of months, and when you give them a good start – like we did – and they get the crowd behind them, it’s a very difficult place to play.
“But take nothing away from Treviso. I thought they played really well. They used the wind in the first half really well and pinned us down in our half – they kicked really well.
“It was difficult for us to get back into their half, and every time we did, we turned the ball over.”
To his credit, White didn’t want to blame the fact that the Bulls haven’t played an overseas team since the early part of 2020 in Super Rugby for their disastrous display.
But that was definitely a factor, because they looked unprepared for the variety in attack and the rush defence strategy of Benetton throughout.
In addition, they battled to find touch to force more lineouts, and missed a number of one-on-one tackles that gave dangerous runners like wing Monty Ioane great momentum.
Captain Marcell Coetzee’s decision to go for touch instead of the posts from a few early penalties was also puzzling, although it eventually paid off with a try to Madosh Tambwe.
“You can’t single out any player, you can’t single out any… There was no area of the game that we really put a stamp down – whether it was defence, set-piece, attack, breakdown. I just felt we were a bit short of the pace in everything. Every time we had a lineout, we lost it when we could’ve built a bit of pressure,” White said.
“I’m a realist. I’ve enjoyed winning with this group, and enjoyed having the group feel what it’s like to win big games. But today, we got it wrong.
“And take nothing away from Treviso – they played well. They took their chances, they started well, they got field position. You can’t play catch-up rugby when you come to any team in the north. We’ve got to understand that … it’s not local derbies. It’s a different level of rugby when you come here.
“I suppose it’s a little bit of everything. Inexperience, the heat, different venue. First time we’ve played in front of a crowd. You can find anything, but it’s up to us to see what we can do differently, to find a way that if we get into that situation again, that we probably play it better.”