Bulls should keep playing running rugby

KURT-LEE Arendse of the Bulls runs with the ball during the United Rugby Championship. | AFP

KURT-LEE Arendse of the Bulls runs with the ball during the United Rugby Championship. | AFP

Published Apr 13, 2024


WHEN the Bulls play their running rugby, and their forwards are in tune with the backline, few teams in international club rugby can match them.

So even with the predicted changes for the trip to Northampton Saints ahead of the quarter-final in the European Champions Cup, the Jake White-coached side should stick to running the ball Saturday evening. After all, they have nothing to lose.

The clash at Cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens (kickoff 9 pm) will provide the fringe players of the Bulls the opportunity to pick up some valuable experience in the English conditions.

Of course, there is the extra incentive of becoming the very first South African side to reach the semi-finals after the Stormers fell at the quarters last season - also in England.

White’s side probably took a leaf or two out of the book of the Cape side when it comes to playing in the quarters and the risk of sending over your strongest team, then a week later coming back to play in the United Rugby Championship (URC) against another strong side and possibly losing momentum.

Last season, the Stormers were on a 21-run of unbeaten matches when they went over to Exeter with a full-metal side and picked up a hiding in the quarters of the Champions Cup.

A couple of days later a strong Munster waited on them in Cape Town and then John Dobson’s men lost their winning run and fell out of the running to end on top of the URC points table.

White’s side is still in the running to claim a top-two in the URC, and tomorrow’s clash would’ve been a potential banana peel in terms of keeping momentum. They face URC champions Munster in two weeks at Loftus in a crucial league clash.

The Stormers also played the Saints in a friendly match a few weeks ago at Franklin’s Gardens and won 45-29 with some brilliant running rugby. Yes, the home side missed a couple of English stars, but scoring seven tries against a strong side is a good feat for any visiting team.

The Bulls can do the same, they have a formidable pack and some exciting backs who can run the ball from anywhere on the field. If they are dialed in to run, they can surprise their opponents who will most likely prepare for a forwards-dominated game from the Loftus side.

Saints with their big boys will love the physical stuff, so if the Bulls can keep up with that, they will have the ability to set their backs away.

No rain is currently predicted for tomorrow, but it could turn out to be a chilly and windy game in Northamptonshire.

But despite what happens on the day, the Bulls will be better off for the experience in the quarter-final