Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

‘We want to be here’ – Jake White after Saints drubbing

White was at pains to explain that the Bulls were not disrespecting the competition and that their hand had essentially been forced..

Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White stressed that his team are delighted to be a part of the Champions Cup and want to play in it, despite seeing his weakened side hammered 59-22 by Northampton Saints in their quarterfinal over the weekend.

White left a large number of frontline starters at home, most apparently due to medical advice, with all current Springboks Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Marco van Staden not making the trip.

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Other regular starters such as Johan Goosen, Johan Grobbelaar, Embrose Papier, Marcell Coetzee and Ruan Nortje were also not taken, and it has now emerged in various media that Coetzee and Van Staden were officially ruled out with injuries.


However plenty of questions are still to be answered in the coming days, with European Rugby (EPCR) having apparently sent an official letter to the Bulls asking them to explain their team selection for the game.

After the match White was at pains to explain that the Bulls were not disrespecting the competition and that their hand had essentially been forced.

“I’ve got to stress, because I think people are reading it completely wrong that I’m not whinging about being here, in fact I’m loving this competition. I’m loving the fact that we get exposed to this and I’m loving that these players can learn what they learned tonight,” explained White.

“It is so close to test rugby. I mean maybe the style varies a little bit, being less conservative and pragmatic compared to Test rugby but the intensity is there and is the fight to win. So I want to be clear that we want to be here in this competition.

“We want to win and be that powerful side that can run out every weekend and be competitive, but you need to serve your time.

“It’s the second year we’ve been playing in this competition. For some guys, it’s the first time they ever flew business class. For others, it’s the first time they’ve ever come overseas, so when you put that in perspective, it demonstrates we still have a way to go.”

Fighting first half

In the game the Bulls produced a fighting first half performance to be firmly in the match at halftime with the hosts leading 28-22, but it was one way traffic in the second half as Saints added a further five tries to their tally to pull away emphatically.

“I wasn’t happy with the way we played in that first period, but it was nice to be in the game when the half-time whistle went, especially because we were 28-10 down at one stage and it looked like they could run away from us,” said White.

“The message was, let’s not let them start well after halftime and let’s not do what we did against Leinster. It was really disappointing that we then gave them two quick tries after the break and we just showed again, some real naivety there in terms of coming out hot for the second period.

“In terms of understanding our captain was very clear at half time about making sure the next 10 minutes are vital so it was really frustrating that Northampton basically scored from the kick-off.

“They took a line out and then they ran a great play and once they scored it was catch up time and you’ve seen in the Premiership it’s really difficult to play catch up rugby against Northampton with all their firepower.”

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Bulls Rugby Team Champions Cup Jake White