Jake White is hoping to do what the DHL Stormers and Sharks could not when his Springbok-boosted Vodacom Bulls tackle high-flying Cardiff in Pretoria on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Cardiff sent a statement of intent to the rest of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship when the Welsh outfit thumped the Sharks 35-0 in Durban. This came after Dai Young’s side brought the Stormers’ unbeaten streak to an end in the Welsh capital prior to the international break.
The fixture does, however, come ahead of a busy festive period when South African teams will be in action through December and the beginning of January for the first time.
The Bulls already have one eye on their Champions Cup debut against Lyon next weekend, but are eager to use an opportunity to get a leg up on their domestic rivals in the South African URC conference by grounding Cardiff.
“We can only control next week after we have done our job this week,” said White on Friday. “Having coached in two competitions before, I understand the enormity of the Champions Cup. When you play in two competitions, you have to have a squad that is good enough.
“We have started preparing for next weekend anyway. The coaches have put some stuff together, with an idea of what the team could look like next week. But that is without taking anything away from the fact that we need to play well against Cardiff.
“They have beaten two sides that finished above them last year. So they will be on a high. I am sure the whole of Cardiff’s squad must be looking forward to this game knowing that they’ve beaten two strong South African sides already.”
White added that he will be counting on all of his prior coaching experience in the next nine weeks which could be very decisive in both the URC and Champions Cup.
“This is going to be some experience, let me tell you,” said White. “When I coached in France there was a period of six weeks where you just sit and think, ‘What is happening?’
“This will be unique for us, playing on the 23rd of December and 31st of December. It will be a hell of a unique experience, going from between 38 and 40 degrees in Pretoria to playing in snow in Exeter. During this next six weeks, you get tested as a coach and a player and as a group.
“I have a lot of experience in this, and can probably be a little calming effect on the group. We have spoken about it from the beginning of this block, about how we will handle it. Week to week it could change, because we live in a fluid environment in rugby. The team is aware next six weeks are important. South African rugby teams have never been in these circumstances, so let’s see how we get through.”
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) December 1, 2022