Pro Leinster a ‘benchmark’ for Jake White’s super Bulls
CAPE TOWN - After using 56 players in 17 games since joining the Bulls, coach Jake White began a new journey with his strongest possible group yesterday to get ready for the Rainbow Cup.
Despite calling on so many players between 2020 and 2021, the former Springbok coach still won both titles on offer – Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup – while the Bulls won their first three games in the Preparation Series before fielding an under-strength side in the 45-12 loss to a first-choice Sharks outfit in Durban on March 26.
But now the ‘real deal’ is on the horizon: European rugby.
The Bulls returned to training from their Easter break yesterday, and will kick off their Rainbow Cup campaign against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on April 24, followed by matches against the Stormers (May 1 at Cape Town Stadium) and the Sharks (May 8 at Loftus Versfeld) before they travel into the unknown.
They will enter a bio-bubble and face three foreign clubs in Europe from the weekend of May 29 until June 12, with the final on June 19.
The one team that most South African franchises want to avoid are multiple PRO Rugby champions Leinster from Ireland, who defended their PRO14 title once more on March 27 by beating Munster 16-6 – their fourth championship in a row.
In a video on the Bulls app, White said: “There was an interesting article I read this week that, of the (Leinster) team that played in the final … 15 of those players played a Test match the week before versus England.
“So, when you put that in perspective, just look at the depth that we are trying to create – it’s not close to anything that Leinster have.
“They are by far the strongest team in Europe, and that’s probably the benchmark for us to try and get to as quickly as possible.
“We have given everyone a fair crack now – I think it’s now time to focus, and I suppose get on with picking the guys who I think have stepped up in the last couple of months.”
In that regard, White has bolstered his squad in recent months, with the latest acquisition being Springbok loose forward Marcell Coetzee from Ulster in Northern Ireland.
But the former Sharks star is only set to arrive in Pretoria in July, and with captain Duane Vermeulen and fellow loose forwards Elrigh Louw, Arno Botha and Muller Uys only expected back from injury over the next two weeks, White is believed to be in negotiations to bring Oupa Mohoje into the mix from the Cheetahs.
The Springbok utility forward has had a tough time of it with injuries over the last few years and Covid-19 in 2020. While he is still contracted to the Cheetahs until the end of May, it is believed that he was in Pretoria in recent days.
But at the time of writing, no deal had been signed by the 30-yearold blindside flank, who can also cover lock and has 19 Bok Test caps.