Jake White's bold-faced Euro Cup declaration
REACTION: Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White dropped a bombshell on Tuesday by stating that the odds are ‘stacked’ against a South African team winning the European Cup.
White, addressing the media after naming a largely fringe selection to travel to England and tackle Exeter Chiefs in a Round Two fixture, poured cold water on expectations of SA teams dominating in Europe as they did in the United Rugby Championship.
He also revealed that teams from the Republic will have to travel in the play-offs.
White decided to give the Lyon vanquishers a chance to “build” on what they did at Loftus Versfeld last week.
He made it clear that the travel factor played a huge role in his selection.
The Bulls boss pointed to their loss in the United Rugby Championship Final as a prime example of how travel can impact on a performance.
“We played Leinster in the semifinal [in Dublin] and travelled back economy class,” he said of his team’s heartbreaking loss to the Stormers in Cape Town.
“We learnt a lot from that,” he said.
“We have the Stormers next Friday [in a URC match in Cape Town],” he said, adding: “There is no way we can fly via Doha, arrive tomorrow [Wednesday night], play in Exeter, fly out Sunday morning and arrive here midday Monday and then expect us to be ready for the Stormers game”
He said they ‘respect’ Exeter, but have to be at their best for the Stormers as well.
“This doesn’t mean we are going into the game [against Exeter] saying it doesn’t count.
“It is about doing what we think is best for our group.
“We would like to do well in both the Champions Cup and the United Rugby Championship but we must also be honest with ourselves in understanding the demanding travelling schedule.”
The Bulls’ Director of Rugby said he is also a realist and suggested that the odds are stacked against South African teams winning the European Cup.
(Article continues below the @king365ed interview with Jake White ...)
“For you to win the Champions Cup, you need to beat Toulouse, Leinster and La Rochelle on three consecutive weekends,” he said.
“I don’t want to be a defeatist, but you have to be realistic.
“Do we have the squads in South Africa that can match La Rochelle, Toulouse and Leinster on three consecutive weekends away from home?” White asked – pointing out that the participation agreement means South African teams have to travel abroad from the quarterfinal rounds and beyond.
The Bulls boss said someone who believes you can beat the likes of Toulouse, La Rochelle and Leinster away from home on consecutive Saturdays is “disconnected from reality”.
“I would be amazed if any South African side will have the firepower to [beat those teams back-to-back].
“A one-off game maybe you can beat a top side,” said – as his team did in last year’s URC semifinal against Leinster in Dublin.
“However, to back it up week-after-week-after-week-after-week at the end of a long season and play three teams that have a budget of ZAR180-million, as opposed to a budget of ZAR70-million, we are kidding ourselves.
“It doesn’t mean you go into every game saying: ‘It doesn’t count’.
“It also doesn’t mean I say the URC is more important.
“It is about using the resources that are at your disposal.
“We want to win as many times as we can.
“When they [Exeter] come to visit us in January in 40-degree weather, coming out of their winter, it will be a daunting task for them.
“Maybe then I will play my strongest team at home and it give us a chance to find a way into the top 16 of the competition,” White added.
White pointed out that the run of away matches – Exeter, the Stormers, the Sharks, the Dragons, Lyon and Scarlets – as opportunities to give the entire squad some game time in pressure matches.
The side that is travelling to Exeter is beaming with confidence after an enthralling win over Lyon at Loftus.
However, White is expecting a tough clash against the side that is hard to beat at home.
“They were [European Cup] champions two years ago and they have internationals in almost every position .
“We are playing in a tough venue to win at, but I am expecting us to roll up our sleeves, to embrace the fact that we are going to a place where things will be tough but we must stand as men and give it a fair crack.”
* Meanwhile White confirmed that lock Jacques du Plessis underwent a surgical procedure to insert pins into a fractured hand, which will sideline him for five to six weeks.
Utility back Marco Jansen van Vuren is scheduled for surgery on his patella injury on Wednesday.
BULLS travelling squad: 1 Dylan Smith, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 3 Sebastian Lombard, 4 Reinhardt Ludwig, 5 Janko 6 Swanepoel, 7 Nizaam Carr, 8 Muller Uys, 9 WJ Steenkamp, 10 Bernard Van Der Linde, 11 Morné Steyn, 12 Stravino Jacobs, 13 Carlton Bannies, 14 Stedman Gans, 15 Sibongile Novuka, 16 Lizo Gqoboka, 17 Joe Van Zyl, 18 Jacques Van Rooyen, 19 Merwe Olivier, 20 Cameron Hanekom, 21 Phumzile Maqondwana, 22 Tielman Nieuwoudt, 23 Keagan Johannes, 24 Chris Barend Smit, 25 Niel Le Roux, 26 Kabelo Mokoena, 27 Juan Mostert, 28 Wandisile Simelane, 29 Tian Lange
BULLS CHAMPIONS CUP FIXTURES:
Saturday, December 10: Bulls 42-36 Lyon
Saturday, December 17: Exeter Chiefs vs Bulls
Saturday, January 14: Bulls vs Exeter Chiefs
Friday, January 20: Lyon vs Bulls