Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport


Jake, if you’re serious about winning the Champions Cup, pick your best team

The Bulls boss selected several fringe players for the quarter-final match against Northampton Saints.


Jake White has been in the news over the last few days for the team he selected to play in the Champions Cup quarter-final against Northampton Saints in England on Saturday night.

For the record, White picked no recent World Cup-winning Bok players, like Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse, nor other Boks like Johan Goosen, Wilco Louw, and Embrose Papier, and a few other form men who’d ordinarily be considered first choice picks. Others like Marcell Coetzee and Marco van Staden are known to be carrying injuries.

Watch Jake White congratulate Northampton on beating Bulls

White insisted on Friday he had not picked a B team for the quarter-final match and that it was his best team for the game and that some of the players who’d not travelled to Europe had been left at home on medical advice.

According to reports coming out of Europe, White and the Bulls are to be investigated by the EPCR for fielding an under-strength side.

Needless to say, the Bulls lost the match to the Saints 59-22.

Pick your best in the quarters

Now while it is understandable there is a lot of rugby happening and it’s hard battling on two fronts – the Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship – and that some players might be nursing niggles and need rest, and White and Co are possibly prioritising the URC as the Bulls are well-placed in the competition, it’s not on to not pick your strongest team for Europe’s elite competition in the quarter-finals stage.

And yes, there are also seemingly plenty of travel headaches as well when it comes to the South African teams when they have to go to Europe for matches.

There’s no way the team that ran out on Saturday though is the best team White could have selected and while he said last week he wasn’t undervaluing the Champions Cup by his selections, the question needs to be asked: If it was a final would he have picked the same matchday-23?

Why enter and play in a competition and put in all the work and effort if when you get to the last-eight you don’t give yourself the best chance of winning the game and progressing?

For a union as big and as ambitious as the Bulls and White are – and they’ve often said how they want to be one of the top clubs/franchises in the game – they showed little ambition and desire to actually challenge for the Champions Cup title by the selections they made this last week when it really mattered in the last-eight.

It’s one thing to give opportunities to fringe players and mix and match in group games and against weaker teams, but not in the “Champions League” quarter-finals.

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Bulls Rugby Team Champions Cup Jake White