Conference talk dismissed, Bulls want to stay ahead of Stormers

rugby29 February 2024 08:38| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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There has been some talk about how this weekend’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship north-south derby will settle the South African conference and how the shield for the best SA side is on the line, but the Bulls have dismissed it outright.

Instead, coach Jake White believes that the game will serve rather as a litmus test of how far his side has progressed and an opportunity to take another step towards a top-two position as the tournament starts to head towards the business end.

White’s side may be on the wrong end of a seven-game losing streak against their Cape rivals, but he believes the team have progressed since losing last time out and is a more seasoned, hardened team ahead of this weekend’s clash.

White said that the way some of the players had matured had given both him and the players confidence.


“It is also a great measurement of where we are. This is a team that has been in two finals, and we are still growing as a team. I’ve said it many times. I’m amazed at how well we did in the first two years considering how the group was when I took over.

“Grobbies (Johan Grobbelaar) was 22, Elrigh Louw was 20. Ruan Vermaak and Ruan Nortje were in their early 20s and now all of a sudden when I read out their names I see one guy is 25, 26, he is not old enough yet, but they have some miles on the clock.

“At least I feel we are a lot closer to being a seasoned team, which gives coaches and players confidence.”

White said that the conference talk was not something they would be concentrating on, but rather that the team needed to take a lesson out of the Stormers' book and ensure they got the league points when needed - something he believes has been the secret of John Dobson’s success in the URC.

“I know people talk about the conference but who remembers who won the Wales conference two years ago? Does it really matter?”


“For me it is not about the conference, but to stay ahead and have the ability to play big games at home. That is what our driving force is this weekend,” he explained.

“The one thing they (the Stormers) have done well in this competition is that they’ve taken their chances. Whether that is kicking a last-minute penalty to win a game or getting a bonus point try in certain games with the last play of the game. To make sure they stay ahead in terms of table points.

“That is one of the things we have seen, that you need to get a top four, top two places if you want to go all the way in this competition. Because it gets tough at the back end of the competition.

“They have afforded themselves the ability to play at home in the last two years. So what is important in this week is that we have the opportunity to stay ahead of them on the log.”


The Bulls are sitting third on the log and the Stormers sixth, and while a Bulls win may not settle the conference race, a Stormers victory certainly will. But the desire to end in the top two of the competition is rightly a bigger ideal, and the Bulls will go a long way towards that if they can break the cycle of losses against the Stormers.

The confidence that would come from that would be invaluable, and while they may not be saying it, almost crucial in their continued development as a team.