White excited about Vodacom Bulls’ potential this season

rugby18 October 2023 09:29| © SuperSport
By:Michael Vlismas
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Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White says he is excited to see what the combination of an injection of new coaching and playing talent as well as the growing maturity of his squad will bring to this new Vodacom United Rugby Championship season.

Having reached a final and quarterfinal in the first two seasons of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, there is a palpable sense that the Vodacom Bulls are hungry to make the lessons they’ve learned and the experience they’ve developed count in this upcoming season.

“I’m excited to see what that next step is for us. It’s almost like we were in fourth gear and we can go to fifth gear now,” White says as they prepare to kick off season three of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship against the Scarlets at Loftus Versfeld this Sunday.

“The one thing I’m really looking forward to this season is the versatility of our squad. The versatility of being able to put a different group together every week. That’s a strength of ours. It’s been my philosophy since I started coaching here that as a backline player the number on your back shouldn’t be cast in stone, which is why I was so excited when I saw Canan Moodie play 13 for the Springboks. I’m really looking forward to the versatility of our backline players and seeing how that comes to fruition when we interchange different players there.

“We started with a lot of young players in our team. Now I feel like they’ve matured. It gives us a boost in terms of our player profile. We now have seasoned professionals in our group. Then the new coaches that have come in have added more value to a system that was functioning well already. Andries (Bekker) brings with him the experience of 29 test matches. Phiwe (Nomlomo) and Kennedy (Tsimba) have added unbelievable value to the skills part of our game. And defensively, we hadn’t really taken the next step up, but now we have coaches like Gary (Gold) who’s been around a long time, and Jean (Tiedt) who comes with 10 years’ experience in the Varsity Cup as a defence coach. It’s just another part of the building block for us.”

It's a sentiment echoed by his coaching staff following a strong pre-season.

“The Vodacom Bulls have been outstanding in developing young talent, but that young talent also has to mature. Many of these players were 21 or 22 three or four years ago, and now they’re 24 or 25. The environment that Jake has created and the professionalism of the players here has blown me away. You want to work with some of the best players in the world, and this franchise has them,” says Gary Gold.

Andries Bekker agrees.

“This team lost in a final and a quarterfinal. But now many of those players have two years more experience, are two years older and have been playing together for two seasons now. You can sense that there is more experience talking in the team.”

On the cusp of a new season, White is confident that this could be the edge his team has been looking for.

“We need to find the edge in high performance as a way to get better every season. This group has had that feeling of dominating in South African rugby. There’s definitely a motivation for us to get back into that winner’s circle.”