Jake: Not all doom and gloom for Bulls after Leinster lesson

Leinster captain and scrumhalf Luke McGrath was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for this head-high tackle on Bulls wing Kurt-Lee Arendse in the 35th minute. Photo: BackpagePix

Leinster captain and scrumhalf Luke McGrath was fortunate to receive only a yellow card for this head-high tackle on Bulls wing Kurt-Lee Arendse in the 35th minute. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 31, 2024


JAKE White was correct in pointing out the vast difference in experience and pedigree between his Bulls team and Leinster in Friday night’s 47-14 defeat in Dublin.

But ultimately, the Pretoria side butchered a number of try-scoring opportunities that should have seen them not only mount a considerably stronger challenge to the Irish giants, but even push for a victory.

White stated in the aftermath of a forgettable Friday night at the RDS Arena that “there’s nothing we can do in two weeks to get us to beat Leinster”, and when you look at the score-line and the seven tries to one tally, you could understand why he made that comment.

The former Springbok coach went on to read out the entire Leinster bench, and it was substitutes such as hooker Dan Sheehan, tightead prop Tadhg Furlong and scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park who made a massive difference after half-time to propel Leinster into a 26-14 lead that broke the back of the Bulls challenge.

But the visitors were leading 14-12 at the break, and had a number of attacking opportunities inside Leinster territory in the second half that they failed to convert into points.

There were a couple of lineouts that hooker Johan Grobbelaar surprisingly overthrew at the back, some thrilling runs from star Bok wing Kurt-Lee Arendse and others that were not finished off, and a number of first-time tackles that were missed.

Their kicking game also let them down at times, with some up-and-unders not going far enough and other kicks down field not being chased with a proper defensive line.

The Bulls had more than enough energy in the first half as they dominated the scrums and worked hard at the breakdowns to slow down the Leinster attack, but they were the total opposite in the second half as they were too passive in defence and didn’t protect their possession on attack.

So, these were all tangible things that the Bulls could look at in their review and need to address if they hope to beat Lyon in their Champions Cup last-16 clash at Loftus Versfeld next Saturday (1.30pm kick-off).

White, though, preferred to take a broader view of the result, reiterating his long-held view that South African teams need the top Springbok players to be part of the local franchises instead of being overseas – lock Jason Jenkins was on the bench on Friday.

“What I do take from that is that we need time. This hasn’t happened overnight for Leinster. I look at that bench, and it reminds me of the Springbok bench, packed with internationals – and not just normal internationals, but proper internationals,” he said.

“You look back and it’s 14-12 up at half-time, and it looks like you lost your way in the second half. But to be fair, it was definitely up another two, three, four gears quickly after half-time, and we are going to have to learn from that – and I’m not talking about rugby learning.

“We are not (down and out). We are travelling back, we are second on the log (before yesterday’s matches, the Bulls were on 45 points, nine behind leaders Leinster), and we played against a team that beats most teams nine out of 10 times – in fact, nine-and-a-half times out of 10,” he said.

“We are not going to get down on ourselves. We have come here and won. We didn’t win today, and we’ve got to be humble about it.

“And it’s not doom and gloom. I keep saying that this is the benchmark of where clubs want to be. This is years and years and years of work, guys – this is not just (out of the blue).

“Back-to-back Six Nations, beat the Boks at the World Cup. Having Cian Healy start the game and he has nearly 300 games – he is going to break Devin Toner’s record soon. On his own, he has more caps than our whole forward pack’s got.

“And the second thing that I am going to keep banging the drum on is that we need guys like Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman, Jesse Kriel and Handré Pollard to be playing for the Bulls in these competitions.

“We can’t have those players playing against us. The best of Ireland are playing for the Irish teams, and the best of South Africa are playing against most of the South African teams.

“I think I get the feeling that you guys (the media) are going, ‘Well, you’ve gone on tour and you’ve lost to Leinster’. Well, let me tell you: there are not many guys who come here and fly home having been winners anyway.”

White also didn’t want to blame the controversial decision by referee Craig Evans to dish out only a yellow card to Leinster captain Luke McGrath for a high tackle on Arendse as the No 14 scored his try.

TV replays showed that there was clear head contact from McGrath on Arendse, which could have resulted in a red card instead.

The only injury concern for the Lyon game is flank Marco van Staden, who went off with what White said was an “MCL” (medial collateral ligament) in the knee, which he said was more precautionary to avoid a serious, long-term lay-off.


Leinster 47 – Tries: Josh van der Flier, Ronan Kelleher, James Lowe, Michael Milne, Dan Sheehan, Jack Conan, Liam Turner. Conversions: Harry Byrne (3), Ross Byrne (2).

Bulls 14 – Try: Kurt-Lee Arendse. Penalties: Johan Goosen (3).