Leinster will be a great benchmark for Bulls, says Jake White

One of the Bulls substitutes who made a big impact against the Dragons was scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who is seen here being congratulated after scoring a try. Photo: BackpagePix

One of the Bulls substitutes who made a big impact against the Dragons was scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who is seen here being congratulated after scoring a try. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 26, 2024


For all the struggles the Bulls endured at Rodney Parade, coach Jake White praised his team for “hanging in there” in their 31-10 victory over the Dragons at the weekend.

And the last-minute fourth try that secured the bonus point will give the Pretoria side the necessary confidence for Friday’s top-of-the-table United Rugby Championship showdown against Leinster in Dublin (9.35pm kick-off, SA time).

White said from Cardiff Airport this week, as the Bulls travelled to Ireland, that the Dragons “were really good at trying to spoil everything”, but the fact that the visitors could emerge from an error-strewn performance with a full house of five points made it all worth it.

“We couldn’t really get much momentum, and as I said in the press conference afterwards to the Welsh journalists, they stopped our maul, they got in amongst us at the breakdown ... Scrum time, they were quite clever in trying to get the ball out quickly so that we didn’t have much of a contest,” White said.

“But getting a bonus point away from home – that’s why it’s a bonus point. We had to work hard until the 82nd minute, and I am chuffed that we got over the line in the last play of the game, because obviously a bonus point, especially at this stage of the tournament, is vital for us.

“What I was really happy with is that we managed to hang in there. The thing I was probably most happy with was when I brought the bench on – that they could also finish a game off.

“Often what happens is that the cohesion goes (when the replacements come on). Against the Stormers, when I brought the bench on, we conceded a maul try.

“As I said to the players afterwards, that’s something we have to look at as coaches, because we are going to have to spend time with different combinations.

“Then we finish off with a different combination and get a bonus-point try. So, the most pleasing thing was that those guys off the bench could do the things that we wanted the starters to do, which means our group is getting stronger and stronger.”

One of those substitutes who made a big impact was in-form scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who added much-needed zip to the Bulls attack.

Starting No 9 Zak Burger’s service from the base is usually sharp, but he was caught up in the Dragons’ spoiling tactics at the breakdown, and that slowed down the Bulls’ rhythm with ball in hand.

Papier also scored the vital third try with about five minutes to go, and that galvanised the Bulls to push for the bonus point, which duly arrived with a Johan Grobbelaar maul try in the 82nd minute.

But they can’t afford a slow start against Leinster, who should have most of their Irish Six Nations players back – while they also have former Bulls lock Jason Jenkins and ex-Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber in their set-up – and will pounce on any unforced error from the Bulls.

White will also have to think long and hard about his team selection, as the Bulls will face Lyon in the Champions Cup last 16 at Loftus Versfeld next weekend after a six-day turnaround between the Dragons and Leinster encounters.

“That’s (comparing Bulls to Leinster) exactly what I am going to try to get out of this (Leinster) game. It’s a great benchmark for us to see where we are as a group,” White said.

“It’s an away game against a really good team. The bulk of that team played for the Irish team that have just won back-to-back Six Nations (titles) and beat the Boks in the World Cup. I know it’s going to be a great test for us to see how good we are.

“It (the six-day turnaround) happens like that, as next weekend we play a European Cup game at home. It’s the same for everybody – sometimes you get short weeks, or long weeks.

“One week you might feel like it’s a little bit short, and the next week it’s an extra day to prepare for another game.

“It’s not like we are the only team (experiencing that). So, not too concerned about it, because it’s going to be the same for everyone.”