Cohesion key for the Bulls, says Jake White ahead of clash against Sharks
CAPE TOWN – Go back to start, and collect 49 points. No, this is not an instruction during a game of Monopoly, but rather the approach that Bulls boss Jake White has adopted for Saturday’s Super Rugby Unlocked clash against the Sharks.
The last time the Durban side visited Loftus Versfeld, they got hammered 49-28, with the Bulls playing an exciting attacking style in their first match under new director of rugby White.
But even though that was ‘only’ a warm-up game, the former Springbok coach is asking his players to reproduce that performance in Pretoria on Saturday night (7pm kick-off).
The three-time Super Rugby champions have battled to get going since, with an iffy 30-23 win over Griquas followed by last Friday’s 19-17 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Their momentum was affected by the Springbok Showdown match at Newlands following SuperFan Saturday, but now White has reverted largely to the same time from that weekend.
In this week's episode of "No-Holds-Barred", Coach Jake White addresses Gio Aplon's injury, the close loss to the Toyota Cheetahs, and looks ahead to Saturday's clash with the Cell C Sharks. Download the Vodacom Bulls app to watch the full episode here: https://t.co/GBDjImM9yZ pic.twitter.com/uUkpmQE48O— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) October 22, 2020
Apart from the absence of injured fullback Gio Aplon – with David Kriel shifting to No 15 – White restored the backline yesterday when announcing his team, with Stedman Gans and Cornal Hendricks as the centres and Ivan van Zyl at scrumhalf.
The most significant selection may be the return from injury of Blitzbok star Kurt-Lee Arendse, who made everybody in the local rugby fraternity take notice of his speed after scoring two excellent tries from left wing against the Sharks.
He’s missed the last two Bulls matches, and will bring that cutting edge that they have lacked recently.
“What I’d really like to see is just a little bit more cohesion. To be fair to the players, we’ve made changes, and we would like to give some players the chance to train well – but we also don’t want to lose the fact that these players haven’t played much rugby together,” White said.
“The most important thing for me this weekend is to try to get some cohesion, some rhythm in both our attack and our defence. We are probably more at a disadvantage than anyone else because we have such a new group – the other teams have been together longer, like Province, Sharks and Griquas.
🚨 TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 🚨 #BullsFamily here is your match-day 23 to take on the Cell C @TheSharksZA in round 3 of Vodacom #SuperRugbyUnlocked 💪— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) October 22, 2020
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Check out the press release for more info: https://t.co/3tx9x24BWo#BULvSHA pic.twitter.com/uNv5XMplKS
“We understand that and it’s not an excuse, but we have to try as hard as we can to get some sort of rhythm and cohesion.
“We are still very young in terms of where we are in the evolution of our group, but it doesn’t mean that we take it as a negative or an excuse. We want to hit the ground running, like we did in that Sharks warm-up game, where we played really well.
“What happened is that we probably got a bit seduced by how easy it was in that first game, and we came up against stiff opposition with line-speed after that.”
There is a familiar face back in the forwards in the shape of tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe, who has been working on his recovery from an ankle operation in the United States following his move from Toulon to the Bulls.
White will hope that Van der Merwe will rekindle the form that saw him earn seven Test caps.
Starting XV: 15 David Kriel 14 Travis Ismaiel 13 Stedman Gans 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Morné Steyn 9 Ivan van Zyl 8 Duane Vermeulen (capt) 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Marcel van der Merwe 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Gerhard Steenekamp 18 Trevor Nyakane 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Arno Botha 21 Embrose Papier 22 Chris Smith 23 Marco Jansen van Vuren