Injured Bulls create Munster doubt, says Jake White

Young No 8 Cameron Hanekom (right), seen here getting a yellow card, was one of the best Bulls on display at Franklin’s Gardens. Photo: BackpagePix

Young No 8 Cameron Hanekom (right), seen here getting a yellow card, was one of the best Bulls on display at Franklin’s Gardens. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 15, 2024


AFTER all the drama around his Bulls team selection for the Northampton clash, Jake White says he may have to use many of those same players for their coming game against Munster at Loftus Versfeld.

The Pretoria side were still in the contest at 28-22 down at half-time, but succumbed 59-22 in their Champions Cup quarter-final at Franklin’s Gardens this past Saturday as their defence fell apart in the second half.

The lack of cohesion was evident in combinations that hadn’t played much rugby this season, despite White explaining before and after the match that most of the Bulls who played had considerable experience.

There were line-out overthrows, tackles missed, multiple knock-ons on attack and a few other shortcomings that saw the Bulls concede nine tries against the English Premiership log leaders.

Young No 8 Cameron Hanekom – despite his yellow card for a spear tackle – and wing Sebastian de Klerk were the best Bulls on the night, and they will be two of the matchday 23 who will have a good chance of starting in this weekend’s Munster game.

The Bulls have been accused of prioritising the United Rugby Championship over the Champions Cup due to the under-strength team White selected for the Northampton quarter-final. But the former Springbok coach was again at pains to explain that many of the regular first-choice players were dealing with injuries.

Captain Marcell Coetzee’s knee injury is reportedly more serious than previously thought, while Marco van Staden (knee) and Ruan Nortjé (hamstring) had already been ruled out of the Northampton game following their injuries against Leinster and Lyon, respectively.

Bok stars Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie also picked up niggles against Lyon earlier this month, although the extent of their issues are undisclosed at the moment.

The Bulls are third on the URC log on 45 points, behind Leinster (54) and Glasgow (49), with Munster fourth on 43, so a victory is vital to keep their hopes of hosting home play-offs alive.

“I don’t think that is the way you should do it, to tell people a week out who could and could not play,” White said after the Northampton game, when asked who would be available to face Munster.

“I think any team would appreciate that you try and keep your selection as close as possible (to the match). Things change during the week, and I would rather make sure that I find out when I get back who has recovered, who has gone in, how the operations look.

“As it stands, there are a lot of guys that I am considering playing (against Munster) because I don’t know how many of the guys I left behind are going to be ready after a week of rehab ...

“Cameron played outstandingly well tonight, and it was his first game in seven or eight weeks. Stravino Jacobs, it was the first time he was back after six months out with injury.

— SuperSport Rugby (@SSRugby) April 13, 2024

“I’ve got guys who went in for operations this week. I’m not going to tell you who’s injured or who can’t play next week because the reality is that it is a competitive industry that I am in. I’m not going to tell you now who is going to play against Munster ... No one does that.”

In spite of the big blow-out against Northampton, White reiterated that the game provided some answers for the rest of the season and the future of the SA teams in the Champions Cup.

“You will have to analyse (the Northampton match). There were things that happened (on Saturday) that you probably haven’t seen before – from a defensive point of view,” White said.

“There were probably some attacking things that we could have done a bit differently. We won’t just chuck it away – we will use whatever we can out of this game to make sure we get better.”