White needs his Bulls to find a way to bounce back strong

rugby23 April 2024 08:20| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Bulls © Getty Images

With their hopes of a home playoff run taking a massive knock with the loss against Munster last weekend, the Vodacom Bulls need to find a way to settle the jitters of inexperience as they take on the Ospreys this Saturday at Loftus Versfeld.

It is no secret that the Bulls were outclassed by Munster’s streetsmarts last weekend, with the defending champions getting away with murder at the breakdown, consistently talking to the referee and slowing the game down with water carriers consistently on the field.

While this is nothing new in rugby union, the naivety of the Bulls leadership on the field, and the fact that they didn’t stamp their authority on their home ground fortress remains a massive concern, especially with three tough games left in the league phase of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

The Bulls missed the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Ruan Nortje and Marco van Staden on the weekend, but their loss can’t solely be put down to the absence of the three forwards.

For once the pack looked very vulnerable, almost intimidated by a more street smart pack that had their number and pretty much won every battle on offer.

Coetzee and Nortje are both injured at the moment, and are the team’s co-captains while World Cup winner Van Staden is a few weeks away from returning from a knee injury.


And now the Bulls face the Ospreys, a team that normally wouldn’t raise too much of a sweat on their home ground of Loftus, but the Welsh side’s win over the DHL Stormers, coupled with their earlier win over the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg in an EPCR Challenge Cup game makes them unbeaten in South Africa this season - something not a lot of teams can claim.

The Ospreys are also seventh on the log now, and targeting a playoff spot as high as they can get and while before this past weekend it may have been a pipe dream, their newfound confidence can become a problem for the Bulls on their home ground.

After this game the Bulls have second-placed Glasgow Warriors heading to Loftus Versfeld before they finish their league fixtures with a tough match in Durban against the Hollywoodbets Sharks.

Hardly an easy run into the playoffs and if this weekend was to put jitters into their campaign, they need to strike back quickly against the Ospreys to put those to bed.

The good news is that it seems that Nortje may well be back this week to lead the Bulls as his hamstring injury has recovered significantly.


There is also some other good news that signing Jannes Kirsten, who hasn’t played for the Bulls since arriving from Exeter Chiefs, should be cleared to play this week as well.

White has said he wants to ease him back into action, so it is unclear if he will play this week.

White said after the Munster game that missing Coetzee, Nortje and Van Staden was something that cost his side.

“You miss the caliber and experience of the two captains who didn’t play. We missed those sort of calm heads in those pressure situations,” White said after the game.

“I needed one of the guys that’s been around to go to the ref and say ‘what do you think’. Because that’s what really good and experienced captains do.”

White also said he realised that without the serious campaigners the side felt a bit “young.”

“It’s part of the growth of our squad. You take out Marco and Ruan Nortje, all of a sudden we look a little bit young. I am talking about game feel and experience.

“And that’s what they’ve got. They were very composed.

“At one stage we were 10-7 up and it didn’t look like they were panicking. And before you knew it, we were 17-10 down, literally in the last ten minutes of the first half.

“That’s what good teams do. Good teams will get to the back-end of the first half and put you under the pump.”

White was far from giving up, and indicated that his coaching team will be hard at work to ensure they bounce back from the defeat.

“We still have three games and within those three games we still can create pressure at the top of the log. And that’s what we have to do – try and finish as high up as we can and who ever we play in the quarters and semifinals that we are going to be good enough.”