The Bulls still have a lot to give in the United Rugby Championship, says Jake White
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Cape Town - Despite losing three out of their four matches on their European tour, it’s not all “doom and gloom” for the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship.
That is the view of coach Jake White following their 17-10 defeat to Edinburgh on Saturday night.
After defeats to Leinster, Connacht and Edinburgh – and a lone win over Cardiff – the
Bulls have now got a true taste of European competition.
And that is not only about working out the opposition, but also refereeing interpretations in Europe.
The first thing the Bulls players will do when they land back in South Africa today is to “get away from it all” and spend time with their families, though, according to White.
“I’m going to give these guys time off – literally lots of time off. I don’t want them to even think about rugby. I want them to go to their families, and a lot of these boys are probably going to the farm and get away from it all,” White said.
“Then, when we get back, we’ve got Munster and Scarlets at home at Loftus, and that’s what we are focusing on now – making sure that we can get the train back on the track.”
The Bulls were heavily penalised by Welsh referee Ben Whitehouse against Edinburgh, particularly at the breakdowns, and it was a similar situation in the first half of the previous week’s 29-19 win over Cardiff.
There were some questionable calls from Whitehouse who seemed to penalise the Bulls for not releasing the ball immediately when they touched the ground, but allowed Edinburgh a bit more leeway in that regard.
White noted that his team “weren’t getting any joy at the breakdown. Every time we carried the ball two phases, we generally got it turned over or gave a penalty away”, but said the Currie Cup champions will have to find a solution.
“The bottom line for us is that we are in a new competition, and there has been a lot of talk about adapting, and interpretations of how they see certain things. We are going to be in this competition for a long, long time, and it’s no use saying it doesn’t work. We’ve got to find a way in which it works, for us to be successful going forward,” White said.
“I don’t even know who is refereeing in South Africa, but as it is, we are probably going to have the same referees, so it doesn’t matter whether we play there – you’ve got to adapt.”
The Bulls will have a few weeks off before returning to Loftus to prepare for their next two United Rugby Championship matches against Munster (November 27) and Scarlets (December 3), and the break will give White an opportunity to assess his team’s shortcomings.
“It’s not all doom and gloom. It’s four games (done), and we’ve still got a long way to go in this competition. A lot of teams have to come to South Africa now, and I’m sure the lie of the land will change,” he said.
“We need to strengthen in certain positions, we need to strengthen in depth in certain things. We need to maybe look at different players, different combinations, playing style, preparation, touring schedules, all that sort of stuff.
“This is a unique experience for us. After 50 weeks of rugby, you are four weeks away from home and you’ve got a new squad – I mean, Bismarck du Plessis has just come in.
“It’s still work in progress for us. If you look in the change-room today, there is a realisation that this is a tough competition. But I’ve got to stress – it’s not over!
“There’s still a long way to go. A lot of sides have still got to tour South Africa, and a lot of permutations of teams that are going to beat certain teams there that they probably wouldn’t have beaten here.
“We’ve historically done really well with this group of players back home, so now we can go back, refresh and start again. We are looking forward to playing at Loftus again, and I know there won’t be a lot of people there – I think it’s just 2 000 – but still, to sleep in our own beds, to train on our training fields, and the weather will be good at this time of the year.”