Coach Jake White says there’s no need for the Vodacom Bulls to withdraw into a conservative approach in this Saturday’s semi-final against the Lions, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
After winning Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked and topping the consolidated Currie Cup standings, the Bulls will understandably head into the domestic season playoffs as the team to beat.
Prior to the start of the new-look season, many perceived the recruitment of several forwards as further indications that the Bulls would rely heavily on a powerful pack and the kicking game of veteran Morne Steyn.
Call it 10-man rugby or what has been termed as ‘Jake-ball’ by some, but there weren’t many who expected the Bulls to make such an impression in several key attacking areas.
‘Usually I would have been branded as a conservative coach who just plays with our forwards, but I think I’ve learned enough from coaching around the world that you can change things around,’ White commented during a virtual press conference on Thursday.
‘I’m glad it can be seen that the Bulls are not just a one-dimensional team that only plays with their forwards, and we’ll continue to play like that.
‘But it is knockout rugby, and we have a guy like Morne Steyn, and this is almost like his arena. He’s been around for many years and can control a game and kick long penalties.
‘My feeling is that we’ve got ourselves here doing the things we do well, so let’s keep doing that and back ourselves. There’s no point in going into our shell now, we’ve done all the hard yards and have the privilege of playing at home. We’ve shown we can beat all those teams, not once but twice.
‘So there should be no reason not to feel confident that we can do it again if we stick to what we do well.’
In terms of what has worked for the Bulls, their pack has most particularly been a force to be reckoned with when in-form Trevor Nyakane has anchored the scrum, while the likes of Duane Vermeulen have been at the forefront of a traditionally physical approach.
White also has enough experience as a coach to have a bit of banter during media briefings, and this season there have been regular quips aimed at sending out subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) signals.
On Thursday, White said he had taken note of the Lions’ assertion that they would have a crack at looking to achieve some forward dominance on Saturday, but answered with a quote from one of his favourite books: The Art of War.
‘I’m confident, we’ve played against teams who have picked six forwards on the bench a lot this season, and it makes me proud. And when teams say they’re going to come at us at scrum time, it makes me even more proud because it goes back to the old DNA of the Bulls. It means we are doing something right if they are focused on stopping our forward pack.
‘I’ve got no doubt they’ll come hard at us at scrum time, but there’s a wonderful book you must read called ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu, which says when people react to you they are in a state of weakness.’