Coach Jake White says the Vodacom Bulls are desperate to conclude a consistent season with a Currie Cup title that would reward the hard work put in to reach a home final, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Over the course of the new-look domestic season, the Bulls have claimed nine wins, suffered just three defeats and saw once game called off.
There is little doubt that over the past four months, the Pretoria-based side has been the leading side in South African rugby.
Back in November, the Bulls claimed the Super Rugby Unlocked title, but the end goal for all teams has revolved around clinching the Currie Cup title after points were carried over from one competition to the other.
Having experienced a number of big playoff games as a coach, White knows that a final brings a different sense of occasion, and also the threat of one ‘off day’ serving to blight a season of consistent success.
It’s for this reason that White says his message to the players will be very clear this weekend.
‘We have to go out and enjoy it, we’ve worked really hard for a home final, and we’ve shown we can beat these sides. But in a final there’s always pressure, never underestimate that. But we need to embrace the situation and believe the work we’ve done during the year is good enough to get a result.’
On a personal note, White said he viewed the possibility of clinching the Currie Cup as a massive honour.
‘I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a few finals and playoff games, and the pressure of these matches never goes away, but it’s also really exciting. To host a Currie Cup final in our first year together as a group is something special, and it’s been the first Currie Cup for me as a coach.
‘I can tell you I feel pressure, but it’s a nice pressure, it’s what you coach and play for,’ he added.
The Bulls will head into this final as unequivocal favouries, but the last time they faced the Sharks, it was the Durban-based side who managed to pull of a surprise win.
It’s this result that also suggests nothing should be taken for granted on Saturday, and White downplayed any talk of the Bulls getting ahead of themselves.
‘I’ve thought long and hard about this, and we’ve done really well to get here, but we’ve won nothing yet. Experience is a massive thing, and there are a number of players in the Sharks squad who have experienced winning a Currie Cup.
‘This is a new experience for this group of Bulls players, but I want them to experience and enjoy the pressure of a final, and hopefully the great privilege of winning one. There is no need to apply any extra pressure, that will come on its own.’
As it is, the Bulls have not lifted the Currie Cup since 2009, and White said the time had come to start adding to the team’s trophy cabinet again.
‘If you learn a lot from losing, more so than winning, then we should be masters at learning because the Bulls have lost a lot over the last few years. Now we want to change that around.
‘What I’ve learned from this Bulls setup is that this is a very proud team, they’re really driven to succeed, and that makes it easy to coach here. People love rugby here, and it reaffirms what an honour it is to coach in a province like this. There is such a strong brand in Pretoria.’
On one final note, White highlighted what he expected the Bulls to face from the Sharks, and unsurprisingly, this revolved around a prolific kicking game.
‘They kick more than any other team … That style works for them. Curwin [Bosch] drops back behind all his teammates and kicks up-and-unders. It either comes off or it doesn’t, and the way you stop it is to make sure you secure possession, and don’t give them scraps to counter attack from contestable kicks.
‘They also have a strong pack, with two scrumming locks who are quite direct, but we know to expect the Sharks to kick. I can’t see them running the ball or going away from what’s worked for them.’