Jake White says the Vodacom Bulls’ defeat by Leinster in the first round of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship laid the groundwork for Friday’s memorable victory in Dublin.
The Bulls overpowered Leinster in a hard-fought 27-26 win at the RDS Arena on Friday night to eliminate the defending champions and advance to the URC final.
The visitors were tenacious and courageous as the pack took the game to Leinster and challenged them to live with the physical assault, but White’s men had to absorb wave after attacking wave from the Irish before recording a first victory for a South African URC side in Ireland.
Rory O’Loughlin and Cian Healy scored late tries for the hosts, but Johnny Sexton’s failed conversion late on proved to be two decisive missed points as the men from Pretoria earned a famous win in the Irish capital.
The Irish beat the Bulls comfortably 31-3 when the two teams met in the opening round of the URC at Aviva Stadium in September and that’s why White, who spent the buildup to Friday’s match talking up the quality of Leinster, was especially pleased after his side exacted revenge and booked a place in the competition decider.
Speaking post-match on Friday, the Bulls boss said: “We started with them in week one and the learnings and understandings from that game and what we needed to do [to beat Leinster] were evident today. And that’s why I’m so excited, not just that we beat them but that it shows that the group has grown significantly in the last seven months.
“The one thing is true is that you’ve got to defend well against Leinster. Any team that’s beaten Leinster has had to keep them out.
“I think that last play of the game just sums up how good Leinster are. The game was gone, there was literally a minute left and they still ended up keeping the ball for like eight, 10 phases, and ended up scoring under our poles.
“I was sitting there thinking even though it was eight points it was never going to be a fait accompli that we were going to win, and that’s what I’m happy about. I genuinely felt in the game that we never done enough to keep them out and just happy they never did that from the beginning of the game.
“There’s a lot of learnings in that for us and we learnt a lot from the last time we played them, and now there’s a lot of learnings to come out of this knockout game.
“One thing the Bulls have done significantly well since I’ve been here is that they play their best rugby at the back end of a competition and the knockout games have come, both in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby Unlocked and all the competitions.
“I just hope that we continue to understand that when it comes to knockout rugby that we play with that intensity, composure and confidence and we’ll continue to create opportunities to win competitions.
White added: “One swallow doesn’t make a summer; we’ve just won one game against Leinster. It’s great that our forward curve and progression looks like it does, but there’s a lot more things I’d like to do.
“We’re not close to where we want to be but without being arrogant, playing in the final of the URC in year one and being in the semi-final of the Currie Cup back home is just fantastic for our union.”
Will the Cape side make two in a row against Ulster?
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 9, 2022