Bulls found a way to get out of Ulster strangle, says delighted Jake White

FILE - Bulls’ head coach Jake White. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

FILE - Bulls’ head coach Jake White. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Published Apr 2, 2022


Cape Town — The Bulls were staring down the barrel with a 9-3 deficit, but coach Jake White’s halftime message to his players was “we’ve got to play”, and it worked a treat in a 34-16 bonus-point victory over Ulster at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The 19 436 crowd were stunned into a worrying silence as the first half wore on, with Ulster scrumhalf Nathan Doke slotted three penalties to put the Belfast outfit in front at the break.

But the Bulls, inspired by captain Marcell Coetzee, roared back in the final 40 minutes to run in four tries and claim five United Rugby Championship log points, which moved them up to sixth position on 42 points, ahead of the Stormers’ (38) clash with the Ospreys later on Saturday.

Second-placed Ulster, having lost 23-20 in controversial circumstances to the Stormers in Cape Town last week, frustrated the Bulls into mistakes in the first half with a razor-sharp defence, while Doak’s boot kept the scoreboard ticking over.

But the Bulls finally found their attacking rhythm in the second half, with skipper Coetzee scoring following a series of carries by the forwards, before Madosh Tambwe and Johan Grobbelaar dotted down for a 27-16 lead.

Fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse added the finishing touches with an intercept try in the closing stages.

“I must say I expected that. It’s a Test side, and that is how Ulster play. Last week, they allowed the Stormers two entries into their 22, so it’s not a case of the first half wasn’t good,” White said after the match.

“It was a question of… they just strangled us. We had to find a way in the second half to get out of that strangle, and the message was very simple: we’ve got to play. We are not going to just stand back and watch – otherwise you are going to end up not being good enough.

“So, I thought it was always going to be that style of game. In fact, when we got to the stadium with all the supporters, it felt like a Test match again. That is what’s so nice – the last two weeks have probably been a little bit easier… No disrespect to any of the other teams.

“This was going to be a genuine Test match, and it was never going to be a runaway in the first half. But to score four tries in the second half is obviously fantastic.”

White was delighted by the pack’s efforts in the scrums and lineouts, and how the Bulls managed to make life difficult for the Ulstermen at altitude.

“Our defence was outstanding, and at times, we had to defend our line with everything we had. Our lineouts… That turnover that Ruan (Nortje) got on the tryline – from there we kicked it out and further on, Kurt-Lee gets an intercept try and we get a bonus point,” the former Bok coach said.

“There were many questions asked by the media about whether our scrum is strong enough, but today against a good side, we scrummed well.

“(Ulster tried to slow the game down) The 12 was injured, then the 13 was injured, the captain spoke a lot. We spoke hard with Marcell to put them under pressure and tell them we want to play.

“They actually asked me for a water break at 20 and 60 minutes, and I said no. It’s a home game for us, and we must use the home-ground advantage in our favour. If we play there, then they decide what they want.

“It was slowed down, and I think that is why we didn’t get going in the first half. When the second half came and we got a bit more ball, and we got more entries into their 22, then it was much better for us.”

Ulster coach Dan McFarland felt that the yellow card to lock Kieran Treadwell in the 66th minute for a dangerous tackle on Arendse had a major influence on the result, with the visitors having fought back to reduce the gap to 20-16 at that stage.

“I personally don’t think it’s a yellow card. He’s tackled the ball, and he’s come into very slight contact with the head. So, how many yellow cards are we going to see from now on if you make a tackle that comes in at the right height and the right place, and then it manages to just touch the head?” McFarland said.

“If they’re all going to be yellow cards from now on, that’s fine by me. But then I expect to see that, every one, from now on.

“They came out hard at the start of the second half, and we missed a couple of tackles and they ended up scoring a try off the back of the scrum.

“Then, we gave a penalty away and the wayward pass, and they were 20-9 up. We got back into it with really good play to get back to 20-16. Then the decision on the yellow card, and that was the game, wasn’t it…

“I am really proud of what we’ve done out here. We got away with one point when our performance deserved four points. Everything is tougher compared to back home. The Bulls were a good team today.”


Bulls 34 – Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Madosh Tambwe, Johan Grobbelaar, Kurt-Lee Arendse. Conversions: Chris Smith (2), Morné Steyn (2). Penalties: Smith (2).

Ulster 16 – Try: Luke Marshall. Conversion: Nathan Doak (1). Penalties: Doak (3).


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