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Navigating 'club rugby on steroids' is tough says White

REACTION: Jake White, the Bull’s Director of Rugby, says the Champions Cup is club rugby on steroids but navigating the challenges to compete against the best teams out there takes its toll.

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White tried to explain the calibre of the competition with teams like Leicester, Stade Rochelais and the likes.

“I believe we will grow and we will just get better and better. But I’m also a realist. If you see La Rochelle play Leicester guys, if you see those games last weekend.  You see La Rochelle running out at Leicester Tigers. It’s a different level altogether. It’s club rugby on steroids.”

In the Champions Cup game at Loftus on Saturday, Bordeaux scored five tries in the second half and the Bulls were clearly slower out of the blocks to plug all the holes.

White hinted that his team was tired and flat due to their heavy traveling schedule and could not make use of the altitude to get on the front foot.

“I’d like to believe it’s due to the traveling. Coming back from Bristol, getting here on Monday, having flown via Dubai. It’s quite bizarre, because we fly London, Dubai, Dubai, Joburg,” he explained.

“The team we play against flies from Paris to Joburg. So it’s quite weird you know. We end up playing against the same team. But we’ll get there. I don’t want to sound like I am moaning and whinging.

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“We are very lucky, our owners pay for business class for our players so we are even better off than the other teams. But there is no doubt that if we can go via London, straight from London to Bristol, London and straight onto Joburg, we would’ve got here earlier Monday morning.

“By the time we got to Loftus on Monday, it was after two in the afternoon. Considering you play Saturday night and you only get home on Monday after lunch, it’s a long haul,” he said.

“It’s been a bit of a slog, back and forth. We really looked flat today. I don’t know why but we looked flat. We didn’t get to the breakdowns, we turned the ball over a few times. We just looked like we were dead on our feet.

“I know they were too, but you talk about altitude and speed and pace and tempo of the game, we looked as though sometimes we were one or two yards behind the ball as well.”

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He remained positive about the outcome, having beaten a side that has not conceded 46 points in a long time.

“We will take the win and the energy it brings and hopefully, if things go according to plan, we finish second to get a home top 16. That’s not a bad place to be as a young group of players.

“It is disappointing, of course, you want to make sure that you stay in the fight, but we still managed to win with that group of players at the end.

“Cause we could quite easily have thrown it away… Some would say to me maybe I should’ve kept the team on for longer, I changed the front row after 50 minutes, I put all the guys that were on the bench on.

“The reason is I want them to experience that pressure.

“You can’t teach that to someone at training. So I am very happy that they found a way to manage the last five or six minutes and get a win.

“I’m trying hard to digest what actually happened there. At halftime, we probably thought we could get a 36 points difference, which meant that we would’ve come first,” White said.

“I thought we probably got seduced a little bit by the style – we probably started thinking like it’s a sevens game. That probably helps them because you could see that they are a good team.

“But I can’t be cross with them. Four of the forwards who played today are 21 and under: JF van Heerden is 19, Cameron 21, Jan-Hendrik 22, Reinhardt Ludwig 21.

“Now if you consider that this is the next step to Test-match rugby, then the only way you are going to learn is through these tests. One of the things that I will debrief when I sit with them is that we’ve got to be a little more streetwise – and that only comes with time.

“You don’t score 46 points against Bordeaux… If you go and look at how many times they have conceded 46 points, it’s not often. They have been dominating in France, even away from home.

“So, I’m happy, and there will be lessons that we will learn. But it’s always nice to learn lessons when you’ve won. It would have been a different speech if we had thrown that away.”

 

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