Vodacom Bulls head coach Jake White has fired back at talk that the Bulls’ poor start to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship is down to conditioning.
South Africa’s reigning domestic champions lost both of their games in the first two rounds of the URC, slipping to a 31-3 loss to Leinster before being handed a 35-7 defeat by Connacht.
Among the reasons that pundits have suggested for the results is that the Bulls have struggled with the pace and intensity of both of their matches against fresher opponents.
However, in defending his team’s fitness, White said that no such suggestions were made when the Bulls were winning back-to-back Currie Cup titles.
“I’ve been close to coaching 40 years and still every time you lose, people say it’s because your players are unfit,” White said on Friday, ahead of Saturday’s meeting with the Cardiff Blues.
“That’s always the first thing that comes to their mind. When we were outplaying domestic opponents in second halves of matches and scoring 40 points on some occasions, finishing off strong, no one mentioned anything about fitness.
“Our medical and conditioning staff have been fantastic. I have no doubts that it’s not our conditioning that’s the issue.”
As the four South African teams have played near non-stop rugby since the resumption of the domestic calendar last year, White said that their struggles in the new competition may have more to do with mental fatigue.
“I’m not even talking about physical fatigue, it’s more mental,” he said.
“It’s very important to understand how the schedule has gone. I did some sums the other day – in the last 52 weeks, starting back 25 September last year with Superhero Saturday, we’ve played 40 fixtures and had two cancelled fixtures. Barring those games, we’ve been training Monday to Friday 42 of the 52 weeks.
“Mentally, it’s incredibly draining.
“We love what we do. We’re not going to complain about being on a rugby field, particularly after the Covid lockdown. But to get yourself up for 40 weeks is really tough.
“To be fair, we’ve enjoyed the bulk of those weeks. We’ve won much more than we’ve lost. For us, it’s been easier for others perhaps. I wouldn’t buy the theory that we’re unfit.”
Photo: Billy Stickland/INPHO/