Bulls ready to take their brand to Europe
SPOTLIGHT: The back-to-back Currie Cup champion Bulls will head to Ireland on Saturday to defend the pride of South Africa.
Having dominated the South African landscape the past 18 months, they now face the might of Europe when the United Rugby Championship kicks off next week.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White readily admits his team will have to take it up another level or two.
White said his team has an ‘advantage’ over the other South African franchises, in that they were able to travel to Benetton to face Treviso in the Rainbow Cup Final earlier this year – when they lost 8-35 to a team loaded with Italian internationals.
“It was a massive learning curve there and a massive wake-up call,” the Bulls boss said.
He added that they got into a comfort zone by playing in the same stadiums against the same teams, without crowds.
However, they now face a very “different” challenge – opening their campaign against Irish giants Leinster in Dublin on September 26, followed by encounters with Connacht (Galway, October 1), Cardiff (October 9) and Edinburgh (October 16).
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“I will sit down with a couple of the guys I need to bounce a couple of things off,” White said.
“It is back to business at the back end of this week,” he said of going from back-to-back Currie Cup triumphs to playing in a Trans-continental competition.
Taking a young team – several who have just graduated from the junior ranks – White said he is a ‘realist’ when assessing the challenge they face in the next month.
“I know we are off from where we need to be,” the Bulls Director of Rugby said.
“We face Leinster next Saturday,” he said, adding: “They probably have 25 guys in their squad that are international players.
“We are going from the Currie Cup, where the average age is 24, to play internationals who have more Test caps than players in this country has Currie Cup games.
“Saying that. If I see how our young players are improving, it gives me hope.”