These AAA Bulls won't go into their shells
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has played down concerns that the Currie Cup has become a competition where defence is ‘optional’.
Speaking to the media after his team’s Round 10 win over Griquas at Loftus Versfeld this past Wednesday, the former World Cup-winning coach said his team will continue to put a premium on attack – even though some fans refer to it as ‘headless chicken, touch rugby’.
Concerns about the standard of defensive structures in the domestic game again came to the fore this week.
In the two Round 10 midweek matches, the Bulls outran Griquas to record a 56-33 win that produced 11 tries, while the Cheetahs and Lions played to a 44-all draw (12 tries).
In earlier rounds Western Province beat the Cheetahs 40-39, the Sharks beat the Bulls 35-28 and the Lions beat Griquas 45-42.
Before that Griquas beat the Sharks 37-27, the Bulls beat Western Province 34-13 and the Pumas beat the Lions 36-33.
Going back even earlier the Bulls beat the Lions 40-21, Western Province beat the Pumas 37-23 and the Sharks beat the Cheetahs 47-30.
Some pundits described it as ‘champagne rugby’, but authoritative voices admitted defensive structures are lacking.
White admitted that defensive coaches may not be happy, but added there is a good reason for the expansive approach.
Asked if this will be practical when they encounter the well-structured defences of European teams in the United Rugby Championship from next month, White admitted teams in the Northern Hemisphere do have a particular style.
However, he also pointed out those teams have not played at Loftus Versfeld or the Cape Town Stadium in the South African summer.
“The complexion of that competition will change significantly,” White told @rugby365com, when asked about the all-out attacking approach of teams in the Currie Cup.
“The four South African sides will play those teams in the summer months in SA,” the Bulls boss added.
“I can’t see it being a 13-12 [result], or a contest where people aren’t moving the ball around.
“Historically it [European competitions] has been that sort of game,” White said, adding that even New Zealand franchises now also achieve scores of 30-plus or even 40 per game.
“Those [New Zealand games] do wonders for the skills levels of the international players.”
He said the Bulls certainly won’t go into their shell now, just because of concerns over defensive structures and efficiency.
(Article continues below the Jake White video …)
“Obviously we do have to tighten up our defence,” White told @rugby365com, adding: “We should not leak tries through lost opportunities.
“We have to look at ways we can get a bit of structure, but we should not go into our shells.
“If we go into our shells, we will not give ourselves an advantage against Northern Hemisphere teams in the middle of summer.”
He admitted they do need the ability to adapt to the wet Northern Hemisphere conditions.
“When you play in Glasgow and it is pelting down with rain, you won’t be able to play like that,” he said of the expansive approach employed in the Currie Cup.
“Then you have to think about the team you select, the style you play -use your scrum and maul. Then your kicking becomes more important.
“However, in the middle of December and we play against Edinburgh at Loftus, it is an afternoon game with 30°C, you don’t want to play for a 13-12 win. You will play a different style.
“You also have to look at teams who have won it [European competitions], like Leinster. They can keep the ball for 15 or 16 phases.
“I am not saying you need to do it [all out attack] all the time, but you have to be confident that when you need to do it – against certain teams, certain temperatures and conditions – you have the ability to execute it.”
So, for now, expect the Bulls’ motto in the Currie Cup to be: ‘Attack, attack, attack!