The 10 points his team picked up from their four match Vodacom United Rugby Championship tour was a satisfactory return for the Vodacom Bulls but their coach Jake White wanted a lot more than that.
The Bulls went into their final tour game against Edinburgh at The Hive in top position on the overall log and looking for a third win on the road that would have enabled them to return to South Africa in a strong position.
Instead, a 31-23 defeat saw them tumbling from first to seventh, and the failure of his team to even secure a losing bonus point clearly grated with the Bulls director of rugby post match.
“I am not sure we should have won the game but did we did make it hard for ourselves and to not even get a bonus point after all that effort made it hard to take,” said a clearly dejected White.
Edinburgh, leading by just five at the time, kicked a penalty right at the end that denied the Bulls what would have been a well deserved point in a game where they had many good passages mixed in with some costly errors.
“Those are the margins, and what you have to fight for. One thing I can say is I am really proud of the amount of fight and effort shown by the guys in the game. At 28-13 and us reduced to 14 men by the red card to Marcell Coetzee, the game was over. Yet we came back and with four minutes to go we had a chance to win it. I am very proud of that.”
WANTS TO AIM AT A DIFFERENT BAR
White, one of four Springbok World Cup-winning coaches, doesn’t enjoy being an also-ran and his mission is to turn the Bulls into a team that wins despite the kind of odds his men faced in Edinburgh.
And that explains why although he should have been satisfied with two wins from four and a 50 per cent success rate, which is considered the minimum goal from a four-match tour by South African teams, he felt his team fell short.
“If you want to be a great side you got to win every game. I am not saying I am not happy with 10 points from the tour, because it is very tough to tour,” he said.
“We are on the road for four weeks and that is a massive advantage for the other teams that play us at home and when the South African sides are away. One of the sells of the URC (as opposed to Super Rugby) initially was that we would be doing away with these month- long tours, but that has not happened. That is obviously something that needs to be looked at.
“I was chatting to some of the other coaches here and they have it so differently from us. Edinburgh will fly to Wales for instance on the same day of the game, and even to Italy. It is very different to what our sides face. I don’t think people back home realise how tough a four-match tour is.
“Yes, it was a satisfactory tour if you see it all from those perspectives, but we are obviously striving for much better than that,” White added.
IT WAS A RED CARD AS THE NEWSPAPERS WILL SAY SO
White was too clever to be drawn too much into discourse about the red card that cost him his captain Marcell Coetzee for the second half and which, coupled with the yellow card to Cameron Hanekom less than a minute later, effectively cost his team the game as there was a dramatic momentum and scoreboard shit at that point.
However, it was pretty obvious he wasn’t happy at the apparent inconsistency evident in Coetzee getting red when Edinburgh No 8 Billy Mata later in the game got just a yellow for effectively the same thing - a shoulder to head collision.
“I don’t know what you want me to say about that, you saw the game and we had 13 men for 10 minutes and 14 for the last 40. You make it very hard for yourself when that happens,” said White.
“It was a red card, I mean that in the sense that it will be in the newspapers as a red card and we can’t change that. But I would like to have a review panel look at it. The laws of modern rugby are like that though and if those are the protocols we just mustn’t be caught on the wrong side of those protocols. We will argue our case if we can.
“We were leading at halftime and nothing much changed after that except that we got a call against us and when that happens suddenly you are on your own tryline (where Hanekom was carded) and then you get a yellow card infringement of the law. When you are down to 13 men it is tough. This competition is tough. There were 12 Scottish internationals in the Edinburgh team, seven of them in the forwards, and at one stage we defended five against eight at forward.
“When it comes to the red card thing, clearly it is something that has to be fixed, we can’t afford to be reduced to 13 men in a big game like this one,” he added.
CONCERN AT ATTRITION RATE
Although they are now at seventh the Bulls can climb the log again if they beat Connacht in the first of a run of games on South African soil at Loftus on Saturday.
They follow up with their first derby match of the season against the Hollywoodbets Sharks the following week (2 December) so it is understandable that White was a bit concerned about the possible attrition rate from the Edinburgh game.
“(Flyhalf) Johan Goosen suffered a head knock, which is interesting if you think about it (the talk about cards), and Johan Grobbelaar injured his hamstring in one clean out. It was one of those games, we have a hooker injured, and we have a flyhalf having to undergo HIA assessment, plus there was the red card issue, so the tour has taken its toll a bit.
“But it is the same for everybody (the other SA teams) and we just have to regroup. We have a massive home game next week.”
They do indeed, not just for themselves but for the South African challenge generally, for the likes of Connacht, who were pretty much gifted their victory over the Sharks in Durban at the weekend, could start building up space between the top and the middle reaches of the table inhabited currently by the Bulls and Stormers if they are not checked soon.
🐂Vodacom Bulls vs Connacht
🗓️25 November 2023
📍Loftus Versfeld Stadium
🎟️Buy tickets here: https://t.co/kVCJqB2qRa @Vodacom #URC pic.twitter.com/fPvXxnwC9F — Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) November 20, 2023