Jake White won’t be ‘bang’ to mix things up for the Bulls in URC

FILE - Bulls Coach Jake White has outlined the areas he wants to work on this season. Photo: Thinus Maritz/BackpagePix

FILE - Bulls Coach Jake White has outlined the areas he wants to work on this season. Photo: Thinus Maritz/BackpagePix

Published Oct 18, 2023


Sorting out the defence and being bolder in selection are two major changes that coach Jake White hopes will turn the Bulls into serious contenders again this season.

The Pretoria side will begin their United Rugby Championship campaign against Scarlets from Wales at Loftus on Sunday determined to get themselves into a position for silverware once more.

White knows that Bulls shareholders Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert want to see the Loftus trophy cabinet full at the end of the season, and they have backed him in the transfer market with a number of new signings on the pitch and in the coaching box as well.

The biggest names to join the Bulls are Springboks Willie le Roux, Wilco Louw and Akker van der Merwe, while there are seasoned pros such as fullback Henry Immelman, flyhalf Jaco van der Walt, flank Jannes Kirsten and utility back Sergeal Petersen who are now calling Pretoria home.

White will also have several new sounding boards in the shape of Gary Gold, Andries Bekker and Kennedy Tsimba to consult as coaches. The Bulls named loose forward Marcell Coetzee and lock Ruan Nortje as co-captains yesterday as well, with White feeling that he can spread the load of leadership throughout what will be a long season.

“The most important thing is that we didn’t win anything. We want to win something, and make sure that our fans are proud of the fact that we win trophies,” White said.

“From a game point of view, we scored the second-most amount of points in the URC, and the most points in the Currie Cup. But the one area where we probably let ourselves down was that we conceded the most points out of the South African franchises.

“That’s one area we’ve worked on, and we’ve got Jean Tiedt and Gary Gold coming in as defence coaches. We will probably put an emphasis on that, just in terms of conceding penalties, conceding points ... probably being soft in allowing teams to score points against us.

“So, that is an area we will be working hard on: to make it tougher for teams to score points against us.”

White has also taken a leaf out of SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’ willingness to trust the depth in the squad and provide enough game time to the entire playing group.

The Bulls held their pre-season training camp in the Western Cape, and those two weeks would have helped to gel different combinations as well.

“I probably hung on to the same group of players for as long as I could, and probably didn’t show flexibility in selections – probably didn’t trust the fact that I could make changes,” White said.

“I’ve decided this year, with the pre-season and interchanging players ... For this weekend, to go with the tried-and-tested from last season is probably the comfortable thing, but to get out of my comfort zone and pick guys who maybe haven’t played, and trying different combinations ...

“If you look at what Rassie’s done, it’s a phenomenal thing to see. During the course of the year, they changed their flyhalves, they changed their front row ... They weren’t scared to put different combinations on, and there is a success to it.

“That’s why I don’t want to rest on one group of players. Rassie has shown that, and the Stormers showed that last year, too. It’s not that I didn’t know it, but I was probably a little bit bang (scared) to do it because I didn’t feel like I had prepared them well enough to put them on the field.”