Vodacom Bulls head coach Jake White hopes that the team’s victory over the Sharks on Saturday can be a ‘turning point’ in their season. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Bulls turned in a clinical performance to outplay the Sharks and come away with a bonus-point victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.
In many ways, the Bulls’ performance was similar to the one that put in against the same opponents during the Super Fan Saturday back in late September, which marked the return of South African domestic rugby after the lockdown.
Since then, the Bulls had to come from behind to beat Griquas in a rather disjointed showing and were then beaten 19-17 by the Cheetahs after missing a late conversion which would have seen them escape with a draw.
Speaking after the game, coach Jake White pointed to their clinical finishing as the ultimate difference in their performances this season.
‘I don’t know what it is about the Sharks. Maybe it is because we did so well against them last time, it’s always easier to get the players up,’ White said. ‘We knew they would come back with an improved performance. What went wrong for us in the past two weeks compared to this week was that we just took our chances.
‘The last couple of weeks, we probably had the same opportunities but we never used them. The thing that impressed me the most is how our bench comes on and makes a massive impact. It is three weeks in a row where we have finished really strongly.’
Despite the relative disappointment in the result against the Cheetahs, White said that players understood that they were a whisker away from taking something from the current Currie Cup holders in Bloemfontein.
‘The most important thing was done straight after that game. I said to them what I said to you guys. Had that kick gone over, we would have drawn that game, but a missed conversion was the difference between both teams. Don’t forget that Free State are the Currie Cup champions. The message was not to lose hope. The reality is that we were one kick away from getting a draw against Free State, who had pumped the Pumas the week before that.
‘The players understood that it was not all doom and gloom. We were down 19-6 and came back and lost 19-17. You take a lot of heart from that and a lot of positives from that. It wasn’t so much what we did this week. It was what we said post that game.’
The Bulls will next host the Stormers, who had to produce a massive comeback effort to beat the Pumas in Nelspruit.
White added that while he hopes his players can take a lot of confidence from their performance against the Sharks, they are very clear of the challenge posed by the Cape side’s Springbok-infused pack.
‘I hope it is a turning point. But I am also realistic. We have to understand that we played so well against the Sharks in the first game back, but we struggled in the next two games. I hope this game will be a turning point for us. Everyone can see the signs that this team is busy growing.
‘There are going to be different questions asked of us next week,’ White added. ‘The Stormers are the number one side, they have the most Springboks and their scrum is very strong. We just need to make sure that we do our homework and play like we did tonight.’
Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images