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EURO SPOTLIGHT: The contrasts of quarterfinal travel

INTERVIEWS: Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White received a lot of push-back – even from the South African Rugby Union – when he raised the issues of his team’s travelling challenges in the Champions Cup.

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However, the real disparate travel routes and options at the disposal of European teams and their South African rivals were again on display this week.

While the Bulls travelled from Pretoria (actually Johannesburg 55 kilometres south) to Northampton on eight different flights and at varying times, Stade Rochelais travelled as one group on a direct route back to France.

The Bulls, after beating Lyon 59-19 last Saturday, the Bulls had to wait till Sunday to find out who their opponents are in the last eight.

In contrast, Stade Rochelais – after edging the Stormers 22-21 in Cape Town – knew on Saturday already they will face Leinster in Dublin.

The face-off between the two-time Champions Cup holders, La Rochelle, and Leinster is a re-run of the past two finals in Europe’s premier competition.

After the victory in South Africa they took a plane back to the French capital, Paris, before heading to O’Gara’s hometown of Cork in southern Ireland to prepare for the game in Dublin.

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“It was good for planning to directly come here, we gained a day of working together and another recovery day,” said La Rochelle’s forwards coach Donnacha Ryan.

“It’s positive for the atmosphere, the routine’s a bit different for the players,” the former Ireland lock added.

The Bulls’ travel plans to England have made headlines, but veteran Springbok and Bulls loose forward Nizaam Carr said they had to get on with the job.

“Even if it’s horrible inside, you can’t show it in a team sport or environment because energy is vital, you don’t want to rub off bad energy to the next guy,” Carr said.

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“Whether we fly 48, 20 or 10 hours we’re ready to get on the plane and give our best on Saturday,” he added.

“It’s something that was completely out of our control.

“We said that if there are boys within their circles talking about the travel, saying that it’s not the nicest or complaining we need to shut it out.

“Those types of things will creep into our game, the way we train and our performances,” he added.

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