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The sky is the limit for this Bulls team, says Jake White

Bulls coach Jake White says there is a lot ahead for his team. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Bulls coach Jake White says there is a lot ahead for his team. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Jun 20, 2022


Cape Town - He admitted that he was “hurting” after his team lost the United Rugby Championship final, but Jake White feels that his young Bulls outfit have a bright future ahead of them.

The Pretoria side were dominant in the opening 30 minutes against the Stormers, but failed to capitalise on a number of attacking opportunities and eventually went down 18-13 at a jam-packed Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.

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Centre Harold Vorster’s early try got the Bulls off to the perfect start, but by halftime, Marcell Coetzee’s team were only 7-3 ahead, and the Stormers roared back in the second half through tries by Evan Roos and Andre-Hugo Venter, while Manie Libbok slotted a late drop goal to clinch a welcome triumph for the Capetonians.

In the immediate aftermath of the match, White expressed his frustration with some of the decisions made by referee Andrew Brace, particularly around the breakdowns.

But the former Springbok coach also acknowledged that the Bulls should have scored more points in the first half to take the game away from the Stormers.

The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for White as the Bulls Currie Cup team also lost their semi-final 30-19 to Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night, while they were beaten on all three occasions by the Stormers in the URC.

But after a terrible start to the tournament, White believes that the Bulls’ graph can only go up from here.

“For some of these boys, that’s the biggest game they’ve played in their lives. They’ve only been together for two years, and the average age of our team – I don’t want to go through the (Stormers) team, but almost every guy was younger than the guy from the Stormers,” he said.

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“The sky is the limit for them. After they were 15th on the log, flying back from Leinster, playing in almost every Currie Cup game – unlike the other provinces, who thought the Currie Cup was a development tournament…

“Next year we have to do it again, and with the European Cup – how the hell are we going to play a European Cup game next week after a game like this? So, there are a lot of positives, from a rugby point of view.”

The URC trophy completes a fairytale season for the Stormers and their coach John Dobson, but White stated that they had a stronger team than the Bulls.

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“I don’t know about that (the Stormers being given no chance). Five World Cup winners, nine guys in the Springbok side, and now you are making out as if they had no chance… We lost five games out of six, we were 15th on the log and we didn’t have one Springbok. If they picked the team tomorrow, we wouldn’t have one guy in the team,” the Bulls director of rugby said.

“Taking nothing away from Dobbo, but I would also think you mustn’t be blinded by the fact that I would love five World Cup-winning Springboks. But well done to him, very happy. He said he wants to beat me, and he beat me! I’ve got to be humble too. Well done to him… it’s lekker for them.

“I’m putting things in context for you. We’ve got a young team who have been together for two years, and they’ve won trophies and almost every playoff they’ve played in. Now they’ve lost and I’ve got to sit here and tell you guys it’s the end of the world. But geez, it hurts hey, it hurts.”

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The Bulls had to contend with travelling back to South Africa from Dublin after beating Leinster in last week’s semi-final, but White didn’t want to use that as an excuse.

“The only difficulty about this was that we didn’t know until the final kick that we had to come home. So the reality was that we had to wait. If Manie misses that kick and Ulster win, we’ve got to go to Ulster,” he said.

“Now from a logistics point of view, that means that – it’s not so much that it’s far – it’s just that you are not sure what you have to do. And then what happened was because the rules are that you can fly business class, to get one aeroplane with everyone in business class is impossible.

“(But the final was) fantastic. It was like old Currie Cup rugby for me. Driving in the bus, I felt like I was watching Currie Cup again. I’m older than you guys – I’m 60 now, so I used to see this when Naas was playing, and blue flags, etc.

“It felt like a Currie Cup game for me. I know it’s not, and I’m happy with the URC – it’s fantastic. The two teams playing here have done wonders for our country, from a rugby point of view.

“Let’s be fair guys – 10 weeks ago, we thought it was a terrible competition. Now all of a sudden… Look what’s happened outside there, it’s fantastic.

“So, the model and the project, I can see everyone’s happy. From a rugby spectacle, that’s what we want. We want people to come back and almost relive what we had when we were young.”