Despite losing eight of their last 11 games in all competitions, the Bulls’ coach, says the team face challenges they have to go through, but that he is not worried. The Vodacom Bulls go into Friday’s Currie Cup north-south derby against Western Province in Pretoria on the back of three successive home losses at Loftus Versfeld.
Two of those came in local derbies against the Lions and DHL Stormers in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and the latest was a heavy 63-15 thumping at the hands of Currie Cup title holders the Pumas in the opening round of South Africa’s domestic tournament.
That loss to the defending Currie Cup champions only exacerbated feelings among supporters that White’s project at the Vodacom Bulls is starting to go awry, but the director of rugby was quick to dispel this talk during Thursday’s pre-match press conference.
“I can sense that people are asking questions, but I can tell them that we’ve never been here before. We have youngsters who’ve never felt these sorts of circumstances before. It’s a challenge we’ve got to get through,” White told the media on Thursday.
“How can you be in a crisis when you’re still in the top 8 of the URC, in the last 16 of the Champions Cup and only lost one Currie Cup game to date? I certainly don’t believe you can call that a hole.
“These are situations we have to go through as a group. We’ve got to go through these times. I know we’ll get through this. It’s still a long way to go. No one’s won anything yet. Last year Leinster won all their matches, only to lose the Champions Cup final and the URC semi against us.
“They ended up with nothing. That’s where you are eventually judged, where you ended up when everything is done.”
Looking at the loss to the Pumas, White said that the Mpumalanga-based side benefitted from having a longer period to prepare for the fixture, and is confident the Vodacom Bulls will bounce back.
“Jimmy Stonehouse [Pumas coach] shaking his head and smirking is not because he’s an arrogant guy, it’s because he understands rugby and sits in the box thinking: ‘Jeez, can you believe there are so many things that go our way?’
“In saying that, they are champions and had five months to prepare for an opening game. I can tell you, if I prepare five months, I’ll win the first game too. People should remember that the Pumas lost five games last year and walked away with the Currie Cup title. The domestic competition really isn’t won in the first week.”
A rollercoaster season has seen the Vodacom Bulls also have to deal with various off-field issues, including captain Marcell Coetzee’s mid-season move to Japan, Sbu Nkosi’s battle with mental health problems and White’s life-saving emergency surgery.
“Sometimes you have to go down the dirt road and other times on the highway,” White said. “At this stage, we haven’t done enough to turn onto the highway. Sometimes in sport, staying on the dirt road and gritting it out is the success story. It’s those stories that are remembered more than when you were cruising on the highway.
“It’s the first time as a group we’re in a situation like this, but I know we have the players to get through this.”
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