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VIDEO: Jake stands firm - I'm not disrespecting the Champions Cup

Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has stood his ground in the face of suggestions that he has ‘disrespected’ Europe’s premier event, the Champions Cup, and that it could result in South African teams being kicked out of the tournament.

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The British media went into full meltdown mode when White named a team sans all his Springboks to face Premiership pace-setters Northampton Saints in a quarterfinal at Franklin’s Gardens at the weekend.

The various media reports suggested there would be a ‘formal inquiry’ into the selection and that the organisers, European Professional Club Rugby, had sent a letter to ask for an explanation.

However, White firmly stood his ground and in his post-match media briefing made it clear – as he did before the weekend’s match – that his selections were based on the medical evidence.

White used Leinster as an example – a top team for many years, but failed to win either the URC or the Champions Cup for the last two years.

They are again the favourites, after dismissing two-time defending champions Stade Rochelais 40-13 – the second time they beat the French giants this season.

“I haven’t disrespected it at all,” an indignant White told a journalist in his post-match debrief after the humbling 22-59 Champions Cup quarterfinal loss to England’s top Premiership side Northampton Saints.

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Everyone wants opportunities,” he said, adding: “Isn’t that what sport is about.”

White said he was not complaining, but merely pointed to the challenges being faced by South African teams.

He felt the whole selection issue was “blown out of proportion”.

“This is not a ‘B-Team’ or a second team.

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“This is the team I felt needed game time, based on combinations.

“I wasn’t prepared to take a risk on players I will need in the back-end of a competition.

Northampton Saints captain and seasoned international Courtney Lawes even suggested his team, must decide whether they want to focus on the Premiership or Champions Cup.

White was adamant that people were misrepresenting his remarks about how tough it is to win Europe’s premier competition.

(WATCH as Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White pushes back over suggestions he has ‘disrespected’ the Champions Cup….)

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“I am not winging about being here,” a discontented Bulls boss said, adding: “I am loving this competition.

“I love the fact that we get exposed to this.

“I love the fact that the players can learn what they learned tonight [Saturday].

“It is so close to Test rugby – the intensity and the fight to win.”

He pointed to the Saints’ commitment at the end, when they denied the Bulls a late consolation score.

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He reiterated that they do want to be part of the Champions Cup.

“We want to be a powerful side that can be competitive every week.

“You need to serve your time and it is [only] our second season.”

The Bulls also pointed out he needs to create opportunities for all the players, making it clear that he has a whole list of injured players back home.

“I have to stress again, we want to be part of this competition.

“I love this competition.

“My Christmas wish is to get all the South African players that play abroad to come back and play in this competition for South African franchises.”

“Selfishly, as a franchise coach, I would like to run out here with an RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, [Hanro] Liebenberg, [Handre] Pollard, Jessie Kriel – Bulls players who left [to play abroad].”

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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