’Vasbyt’ could be good for the development of Jake White’s Bulls
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CAPE TOWN - In some ways, Jake White will be pleased that the Bulls’ 30-25 Saturday night triumph over the Lions at Ellis Park wasn’t another runaway victory.
The Bulls director of rugby has often mentioned that his team are still “young” in terms of time together, as he himself was only appointed during the coronavirus lockdown, while he famously (or infamously, depending on whether he poached your team’s players) signed a band of ‘galacticos’ from all over the place – as Real Madrid used to do.
It takes time to build a proper rugby team, but White has done it in eight weeks. And it is not just about having the big names such as Duane Vermeulen, Trevor Nyakane and Morné Steyn, and scoring sparkling tries through sevens stars like Kurt-Lee Arendse and Stedman Gans.
It’s about creating a DNA within the team that they won’t give up when times are tough – and that’s the situation they found themselves in against the Lions.
Down 15-10 at half-time away from home, it could easily have descended into total chaos, as there had been a number of disruptions up to that point. First-choice hooker Johan Grobbelaar was ruled out a day before the game; promising flank Elrigh Louw went off injured early on; Nyakane got hurt in a collision as well; and the Lions were playing with great pride too.
The home side were shoving the Bulls back in the scrum, and exploiting holes in the Bulls defence out wide.
It required White to jolt them into action with a half-time chat that he said he couldn’t repeat publicly, although he did express his concern about having to resort to that a few times this season to get a “desired response”.
White called it “vasbyt” (to hang on) as his team worked through their frustrating moments, and suddenly the bite in the forwards was back in the second half as they climbed into the Lions, with the loose trio of Vermeulen, Marco van Staden and replacement Nizaam Carr getting through a mountain of work on defence and attack.
Luck came their way as well, with an overthrown line-out to Carr five metres from the Lions tryline ended up with Elton Jantjies shovelling the ball away in front of his posts, only to see Gans dive forward cricket-style for a fine catch and five points.
The Bulls’ endeavour was rewarded, and they finished things off in style as good hands from
Steyn, Cornal Hendricks and Carr saw Arendse sprint through a few defenders.
There are still some issues White needs to sort out. The defence was exposed a number of times, with the most worrying incident being the seven missed tackles on Courtnall Skosan and Wandisile Simelane that led to the latter’s sensational secondhalf touchdown.
The scrum was a good old battle, but it’s not the first time this season that the Bulls haven’t been on top in that area, while the visitors also got themselves into trouble by kicking a number of first-half penalties into touch for a line-out instead of taking the three points.
They have now lost in-form lock Jason Jenkins, who will return to his Japanese club this week, having produced his best display of the competition against the Lions – with White saying that he hopes to bring the one-cap Springbok back to Loftus sometime next year.
But right now, the Bulls will enjoy their bye week on top of the log with a six-point lead over the Stormers and Sharks, who both have a game in hand. With a points differential of 70, just a win over the Pumas in their final match at Loftus Versfeld on November 20 should be enough to clinch the title.
What a comeback to South African rugby wouldn’t that be for White …