Jake White wants to break URC hoodoo: ‘It’s time for the Bulls to beat Stormers’

Bulls coach Jake White is ready to finally get one over the Stormers. Picture: Xavier Leoty / AFP

Bulls coach Jake White is ready to finally get one over the Stormers. Picture: Xavier Leoty / AFP

Published Feb 22, 2024


“One is the Lions away and it’s at altitude ... and then the Stormers, who we haven’t beaten in a long time. I keep hearing about that, and I’m sure I’ll keep hearing about that for the next couple of weeks as well, so it’s time we beat them.”

That was how Jake White described the challenge ahead of the Bulls before last weekend’s United Rugby Championship clash against the Lions, and his team duly got the job done at Ellis Park.

The Bulls’ 25-10 bonus-point triumph over the Lions meant that the Bulls are now third on the United Rugby Championship log, but it’s all part of the build-up to the big one – the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on March 2.

And White is right: he will keep hearing a lot about how his team have lost seven in a row to John Dobson’s Cape Town outfit, and that will only change once the Bulls end their losing streak against their bogey team.

Do the Bulls have a chance of finally getting one over their great Cape rivals? They are certainly well-equipped to do so, considering the depth that White has built up over the last few years.

They will also have all four World Cup-winning Springboks available in Willie le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and Marco van Staden but the same is true of the Stormers, who are set to welcome back Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse, Deon Fourie and Frans Malherbe.

The Bulls have scored the most tries in the URC this season with 47, four more than log leaders Leinster and second-placed Glasgow, and have the best points difference of 129 – with a Champions Cup round-of-16 clash against Lyon at Loftus to look forward to.

The possible secret to a Bulls victory against the Stormers in two weeks’ time could be to keep doing what they have been doing all season long.

Often in previous games against the Capetonians, they have tended not to stick to what worked for them against other teams.

They seemed to go into their shells a bit in attack in particular, and it is something that reared its ugly head once more in last week’s first half against the Lions at Ellis Park.

White noted afterwards that it looked like the Bulls “were a little bit scared in the beginning to play”, highlighting fullback Devon Williams’ decision to kick the ball downfield instead of launching a counter-attack.

“One thing I was happy about is that we had 62% territory and probably 50% possession, which meant that we played in the right part of the field,” White said.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot a few times. Jaco (van der Walt) never found touch with that corner flag (penalty), and gave them a scrum.

“We had a 5m line-out and lost it, and then another 5m line-out and someone fell down as we were mauling towards the tryline.

“Those were opportunities that we should have taken, and I am glad that in the second half, they trusted the fact that (the Bulls were on top). I said to them that we’ve got them under the pump, and it will come – you’ve just got to keep believing.

“To be fair, I think we were a little bit scared in the beginning to play. If I look at that kick of Devon Williams, when he kicked it dead, I don’t know why he didn’t run.

“He runs the 100 in 10.5 – it was almost like he got spooked by the fact that he didn’t want to play any rugby. I think in the second half, when we started to even play out of our half, we looked dangerous.”

In addition, Arendse and Moodie hardly touched the ball against the Lions in their first games back following the Bok resting period, and White expects them to be much more involved against the Stormers.

The depth in the squad has also created serious competition in certain positions, such as hooker, loose forward and centre, and White will hope that it will add an extra edge in preparing for the north-south derby.

“We had (Johan) Goosen on the bench (against the Lions), Marcell (Coetzee) and Akker (van der Merwe) – three Springboks. Maybe a year ago, I would have said put all the Springboks in and hedge our bets,” the Bulls boss said.

“But now you’ve got to be more open to the fact that you need to change the energy of the group. What that does is create competition – no one knows who’s going to be playing against the Stormers now.”