Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White says his side played well at times during their Vodacom United Rugby Championship opener despite slumping to a heavy loss against Leinster this past Saturday.
The Bulls conceded four tries in their first-ever URC match on their way to a 31-3 defeat, with flyhalf Johan Goosen accounting for their only points with a penalty.
The result was one of three defeats for South African teams, alongside that of the Sharks and Stormers, in the competition on Saturday. The Lions were the only local team to taste victory, with a 38-26 bonus-point win over Zebre in Parma.
Commenting on his team’s performance, White explained that the benchmark of European club rugby is high and that they still have to adapt to that level of skill and depth.
“Obviously disappointed because you don’t win, but I’m also a realist. That is the benchmark of European rugby,” he said.
“I just said to the players in the change room now – they go from Six Nations into autumn internationals, into Toulouse away, Toulon away… knockout game against Saracens, Racing Metro. That’s the kind of pressure they have week in and week out.
“So, I just look at their team again, and you just put things into perspective: they get a [scrumhalf Jamison] Gibson-Park coming off the bench as a replacement, and he’s an international. That is what we want to get to, that level of skill and depth.
“As a coach, you never want to be on the receiving end of a loss, but one has to be a bit realistic of where we are, where we’ve come from, and where Leinster are now currently.”
White reiterated that scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection of the game because his team didn’t play that badly.
“At times, we looked really good. You must remember that you are talking about an international side, so you’re not going to get space and all the opportunities [that you’d normally get],” White said.
“The way they defend off the line … they are a well-drilled team. So, I don’t think we looked pedestrian at all. When we had our chances … that moment just before half time, when we had a disallowed try, all of a sudden it’s 17-10. Maybe we give ourselves just a little bit more hope in the second half.
“They are a good side. They are the benchmark. The team that beats them will win this competition. If you don’t beat them, they will win the competition – it’s as simple as that.
“They’ve won it more times than anybody, and as I said to the players, don’t be down on yourself. It’s a great measurement for us, and a great learning opportunity for us. It’s not pleasant, but I wouldn’t say we were pedestrian at all – there were times we played quite nice rugby.
“For big patches of time we defended well, and we kept them out, which speaks volumes to the fact that we didn’t drop our heads.”
The Bulls take on Connacht on Friday, followed by matches against the Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh to conclude their four-game tour.
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