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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Jake White: Bulls are not undervaluing Champions Cup

The Bulls are accused of not respecting the Champions Cup by playing a team of fringe players in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Bulls coach Jake White says the decision to leave behind in South Africa their regular players for their Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday (kick-off at 9pm) does not mean they are undervaluing the competition.

The likes of Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks Wille le Roux, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Canan Moodie and influential players like Wilco Louw, Gerhard Steenekamp, Embrose Papier and Johan Goosen have not made the trip up north based on medical advice, according to White.

Their absence has not been well received by the rugby fraternity, and this has seen the Bulls come under fire, with many saying they are compromising the integrity and quality of the Champions Cup by playing a team of fringe players in the quarter-final stages.

‘We want to win the Champions Cup’

However, White rebuffed those claims, saying the team he has picked for the match does not undervalue the Champions Cup, and this is a situation of him utilising his squad and giving players an opportunity.

“I don’t want to undervalue it, this is a wonderful competition, it’s something we want to win,” White said.

“For me, this is a good team; it’s fresh and has no niggles. They have trained well together, some have been rewarded and some have been rotated. And they want to do well; they want to win this game on Saturday.

“They want to make sure they give themselves a fair crack and as a coach there’s nothing more I can ask from them than that. I would like to give them opportunities in games that are important too, not just in games where the public or media would think that’s where you must play a guy.”

White confident in troops

The core of the players that will do battle for the Bulls against Northampton has a mix of experience and youth. They played in the Bulls’ away clashes in the European Cup this term where they impressed against Lyon and Bristol Bears.

“It’s the best team, I’m confident, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this team does,” said White.

“Not only did they do that (play well against Lyon and Bristol), a lot of these guys played in the first year of United Rugby Championship when we got to the final.

“Then they would have been considered the A team … now all of a sudden because we’ve got another team they are considered the B team. If you look at the competition, the really good squads that have done well over the years, like Toulouse, Saracens and Toulon, have used most of their players in the competition,” said White.

White knows that his team have a mammoth task against Northampton.

“They have strengths across the field, they are very good defensively and attacking-wise, and they score lots of points,” he said.

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