Bismarck du Plessis. (Gallo Images)
- Bulls mentor Jake White believes South African rugby needs perspective following a weekend of humbling results in the United Rugby Championship.
- He noted that his charges played against a Leinster team that is the benchmark for European rugby and boast no less than 31 internationals in their broader senior squad.
- As a result, White argues that it will take a bit of time and lessons for the SA teams to find their feet in their new competition home.
He was naturally disappointed with the result, but on Saturday, Jake White preached perspective from the South African rugby community following his Bulls’ substantial 3-31 loss to Leinster in their opening United Rugby Championship fixture.
While the men from Loftus were better value than the eventual scoreline suggested – they created much of the play in the second and third quarters – their inability to capitalise on opportunities as well as cope consistently with the intensity of the Irish giants was writ large.
“I’m disappointed when we don’t win, but I’m also a realist,” White said afterwards.
“Leinster are the benchmark for European rugby. I just told my players in the changeroom that these guys go from Six Nations and autumn internationals straight into European Champions Cup games against Toulouse and Toulon away, before playing a knockout game against Saracens.
“That’s the kind of pressure they have week-in and week-out.”
Needless to say, the South African franchises, who’ve only played against each other for the past 12 months, have some work to do to reach that level of competitiveness.
“I looked at Leinster’s team again and it just put things in perspective. They have an Ireland international in (scrumhalf) Jamison Gibson-Park on the bench,” said White.
“That is what we want to become too, that’s the level that we want to reach. We want that skill and depth. You never want to be on the receiving end, but for now, we need to be a bit realistic about where we’ve come from.”
White, however, didn’t believe his charges were pedestrian in terms of tempo in comparison with the defending champions of the PRO14, who’ve actually claimed the title for four consecutive years now.
“There were times when we really looked good,” he said.
“It’s important to remember that when you talk about tempo and stuff, this is an international side. You’re not going to be afforded space and time. The way they defend, they’re a well-drilled team. We definitely weren’t pedestrian as shown by that disallowed try just before half-time. Leinster are a good side.
“The team that beats them will win this competition, otherwise it will be Leinster walking away with the honours again.”
That’s perhaps a bit of an understatement – out of a current senior squad of 46, the Dublin-based side boasts 31 players who’ve played international rugby for Ireland.
The Bulls have some way to go to boast that type of savvy and intellectual capital.
“There were two instances that illustrated to me how naive we were,” said White.
“One was Cornal Hendricks, who is a great rugby player, catching a cross-kick and then almost flicks the ball into Leinster’s wing’s hands, who could’ve taken a quick line-out. Next thing we’re in our 22. And Cornal’s an experienced player, a Springbok.
“Then there’s Zak Burger, who takes a tap after we’ve won a penalty after four minutes of being under the pump and now the Leinster defence is lined up. I’m not picking on them, it’s just examples.
“There were lessons to be learnt, but we also can’t just go 3,6,9 against teams like this. Leinster showed you need to vary things. Sometimes they take the three points, other times, they go to the corner and score.
“I’m not judging anyone. We need to back ourselves in this competition.”