Jake White sticking to his selection guns
The Bulls head off to England on Tuesday for the next assignment on their European Cup journey, where they will face former champions Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park on Saturday.
European champions in the 2019-2020 season and twice Premiership champions, the Chiefs started with an impressive 27-12 away win over Castres this past weekend.
In contrast, the Bulls – fielding very much a back-up team – had to hang on desperately against a hard-charging Lyon for a bonus-point 42-36 win at Loftus Versfeld.
Injuries and a pre-planned selection policy will further complicate matters for the Bulls.
However, lock Jacques du Plessis – just back from a long-term Achilles injury – has suffered a suspected hand fracture.
“It is a massive loss for us,” Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White said.
Seasoned utility back Marco Jansen van Vuren also suffered a patella injury that could rule him out of the trip to Exeter.
White is ‘splitting’ his squad, with a group heading off to Exeter and the rest staying home to prepare for the December 23 URC encounter with the Stormers in Cape Town.
That means there is set to be a substantial number of the players who edge a hard-charging Lyon 42-36 in Pretoria at the weekend on the flight to England.
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Part of the reason for that is player management.
As per the collective agreement with the players’ union, MyPlayers, they are only allowed to play 32 games a year.
That means Springboks who featured in most of the 13 internationals this year, are left with a lot less ‘wiggle room’ in other competitions – such as the United Rugby Championship and European Cup.
“We are fortunate that we don’t have too many players who played a lot of Tests,” the Bulls boss told @rugby365com.
White reiterated that they take the Currie Cup very seriously and still regard it as a “premier competition in South Africa” and need a substantial number of frontline players available for that as well.
“There is no way the same group of players can play in the Currie Cup, URC and EPCR [Europe],” he said.
“You could get to the back end of a competition where [suddenly] you can’t play them.
“I have worked a plan out,” he said about the balancing act of not giving some players too many games early in a competition, adding that he is “going to stick to it”
“The plan is clear and the players have bought into it.
“Barring injuries, I am going to try and get two teams that are competitive and can win.”
He said the youngsters who featured in the win over Lyon at the weekend have put up their hands for many more ‘big’ games.
“You have guys knocking the door down to play in the frontline selection,” White said, adding: “We are in a good place.”
The Bulls’ Director of Rugby said the challenge is now to see if they can also play well away from home.
Having held off last season’s Challenge Cup winners, Lyon, at Loftus Versfeld this past weekend, they will be looking to get more points on the road in the drive for a place in the last 16 in Europe.