VIDEO: The 'Super Rugby nightmare' that is revisiting SA teams
When South African teams left Super Rugby, one of the main reasons were because month-long tours put them at a disadvantage to their Trans-Tasman rivals – New Zealand and Australia.
Now the United Rugby Championship runs the risk of delivering the same nightmare.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White has called on URC officials to review the decision – implemented for the first time in the 2023-24 season – to send SA teams on four-week tours of Europe.
In stark contrast, their URC rivals only have to contend with two-week voyages to the Republic.
The Pretoria franchise have just completed their tour – from weeks two to five – same as the Lions. The Sharks were in Europe for the first four weeks and the Stormers are into the third week of their tour.
White made it clear that their expectations were for getting more than the 10 points they take away from the month-long tour.
Having started the season with a 63-21 rout of the Scarlets, followed by 19-26 loss to Ulster in the first match on tour, victories over Zebre (54-29) and Cardiff (18-12) raised to hopes of a successful finish to the tour for the Bulls.
However, it was Edinburgh who triumphed 31-23 in Round Five.
The Bulls will now head home te regroup ahead of a tricky encounter with Irish province Connacht at Loftus Versfeld next weekend.
White, in his post-match reaction, made it clear there needs to be discussions around the format of the tournament’s scheduling.
Speaking to reporters after his team’s 22-31 loss to Edinburgh, where they had captain Marcel Coetzee red-carded in the 41st minute and then Cameron Hanekom sin-binned just a minute later, White reiterated the challenges of touring.
(WATCH as Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White explains why the URC runs the risk of producing the same nightmares that forced South African teams out of Super Rugby…)
“I keep on reminding you that it is four weeks on tour,” the Bulls boss said, adding: “We have to look and see whether this is the way we want to keep it going forward.
“This is a massive advantage for the home teams when South African sides are away for four weeks.
“One of the sells [reasons] we had to leave Super Rugby was we wouldn’t have to be away from home for a month.
“I’m sure that we will have to look at that because you can see what sort of toll it takes on the team.
“Four weeks away from home is tough.
“I was chatting to some of the local coaches here and some teams when they play in Italy, they fly in and out on the same day.
“Some teams travel from Edinburgh [in Scotland] to Wales and they fly on the same day.
“It’s almost like going to Cape Town from Johannesburg and back on the same day – a two-hour trip.
“I don’t think people appreciate how tough it is for South African sides to be away for four weeks with the reduced number of players.
“[With a reduced size of your squad], you can’t have the same training sessions [with] rotation at training.
“If you want to make training worthwhile, you have to keep all the players on the training field as well.