Coach Jake White is delighted that most people seem to consider the Bulls the favourites for their United Rugby Championship quarterfinal against the Sharks on Saturday, despite the KwaZulu-Natalians beating them twice this season, and said “my analogy to the players was that they are like a golfer who has a chance to win in the final round”.
The Bulls get to host the South African derby quarterfinal because they finished fourth on the final URC log, one place above the Sharks, and White really wants his players to feel at home in the pressure of a knockout game.
“I’m very proud we’re the favourites,” White said. “We’ve finished ahead of them on the log even though we lost to them twice and they have eight current Springboks and we have zero incumbents. It’s a feather in our cap for all our coaches and players.
“We’re really excited, there’s a buzz around Loftus like the old days. We will stick to what has been working for us and won’t be influenced by other people. My players have been given full carte blanche to express themselves.
“They’re like a runner coming down the last stretch now. I gave them a golf analogy and told them the pressure to make the cut on a Friday is very different to playing in the final round when you have a chance to win.
“I want them to enjoy it and give it a full go, and hopefully we can do our supporters proud. We’ve got a couple of new things we will bring to the Sharks and it will be interesting to see if it works …,” White smiled.
The Bulls lost 29-22 to the Sharks in their last meeting in Pretoria, in February, but much went wrong that day which White is confident won’t happen again.
“We made a couple of mistakes then – we had to play with 14 men, a kick-off bounced straight into Makazole Mapimpi’s hands and Lukhanyo Am scored a long-range intercept try.
“I’m fully confident going into this match and we have played well in knockout games,” White said.
The only thing White seemed to be unhappy about on Friday was an injury list that curls his toes. To the long-term blows that have ruled out Lionel Mapoe, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Johan Goosen, Jacques du Plessis and Jacques van Rooyen can now be added the snapped hamstring suffered by bruising loose forward Cyle Brink.
Arno Botha is a fine replacement in the starting line-up and exciting youngster Reinhardt Ludwig will be on the bench.