Cape Town - The Bulls’ dramatic 30-26 United Rugby Championship defeat to the Stormers meant that Jake White’s 24-match unbeaten run at Loftus Versfeld has ended, but he wasn’t too sad about it afterwards.
“It was always going to happen. You can never go and win every single game at Loftus – as much as you would like to believe that. Some of the greatest sides in the world have lost at home over a period of time,” the former Springbok coach said.
But it took a monumental effort from the Stormers to pull off an unlikely victory in Pretoria, with coach John Dobson lauding Warrick Gelant for his bit of “magic” in the second half that set up Herschel Jantjies’ try and the winning touchdown by Paul de Wet.
The Bulls produced a brilliant comeback from 18-0 down after just 30 minutes to lead 26-18, and White felt that they had found a way to lose in the final stages.
“The decision-making for me was… I think we were probably just a little bit hasty in certain things. We had them, we had them on the ropes. And in all the years that I’ve been here, that’s generally when we get to our best. We squeeze them and squeeze them, and then put them away,” the Bulls coach said.
“The disappointing thing is that we had them, after working so hard. And almost, just through a lack of concentration, let them back into the game. And credit to them. We saw how they celebrated. It’s important for them to beat the Bulls.
“If we had scored there (towards the end)… Bismarck (du Plessis) was down the touchline. If we had scored there… That’s the margins you talk about here. Morné (Steyn) missed the conversion. If he kicks that over and we get that penalty, we would’ve gone for poles and made the game almost closed.
“So, I trust them. Many times we kicked to the corner and scored and won the game. Sometimes they’re going to get it right, and sometimes they’re not. And that’s part of this development we’ve got to get together as a group.
“For a team to come back from 18-0 down to (score) 26 points from then, you’ve got to have something… you’ve got to have some fighting spirit. As I said, it’s not nice. And if we had won that game, there would obviously be a lot more emotion to the fact that what we did was right. But we didn’t, so we have to get it right. We’ll find a way to learn from that.”
The Bulls also suffered a significant blow after 10 minutes when tighthead prop Mornay Smith went off with an ankle injury, which meant that replacement Jacques van Rooyen – who is a retreaded tighthead as well – had to endure a tough time in the scrums for 70 minutes against Springbok powerhouse Steven Kitshoff.
Although Smith’s injury is “not that bad”, he is unlikely to feature in Saturday’s URC clash against the Lions at Ellis Park (3pm kickoff).
The Bulls are now languishing in 15th position on the log, with just seven points from six matches and only Italian club Zebre below them.
But White believes that his team will come good in this tournament.
“They (Stormers) played till the 80th minute at altitude, and beat us with a long-range try. So, you don’t have to be sour about it. We’ve enjoyed a lot of wins with this group, and sometimes you’ve got to be humbled by the fact that if you get it wrong, you’ve got to dust yourself off and come to work on Monday,” the Bulls boss said.
“We’ve had six tough games, and it’s a tough comp. When you guys have written about Ruan Pienaar saying it’s going to take a few years to get used to this URC, he is 100 percent right.
“It’s going to take any group time to get to know this URC competition – especially our group, which is relatively young. David Kriel is young, and he made some mistakes at the back there. Elrigh (Louw) is young, Grobbies (Johan Grobbelaar), Ruan Nortje…
“Not only do we need time to learn about the URC, we need time as a group. I’ve said since I started here that we need time to grow as a squad as well.
“It’s wonderful when you win, because maybe things aren’t highlighted as they are tonight. When you lose, or don’t get things right and allow teams to beat you, then there are other ways in which you can sort it out. You are either winning or you are learning.”